College Years (Jenn)

Summary:
Category:  Bonanza
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  60,000


 

Part One – Bittersweet Goodbyes

 

They sat under a tree in the schoolyard. Fifteen-year-old Adam and his best friend, seventeen-year-old Judy. They had pretty much grown up together, meeting on the wagon train heading west when Adam was just a boy. They had been separated for a few years when Judy continued the journey with her father, but were reconnected when Judy’s father married and they moved back to Virginia City. They shared a lunch as Adam watched his younger brother playing tag with his schoolmates.

“So, after graduation this year, am I going to see you again?” Judy asked studying him closely for a response.

“Of course you will, we can visit each other on the weekends. Things won’t change that much; we have all summer together.”

“Yes, but then I plan to leave for college in the fall. We won’t be able to visit then; I’ll be too far away.”

“Yes, but we can write. Just because you’re going East, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk anymore. You’re just going to Boston, not Egypt.”

“Adam! You seem to be taking this so lightly. I am your best friend; I would think you would be a little more upset about this. Graduation is in only three weeks, then only a few months until I leave for Boston.”

“I’m not taking it lightly; you are my best friend. I just don’t see a point in worrying over it now. Why don’t you meet me tomorrow by the lake around noon. We can take a ride, walk, talk, whatever you wanna do.”

“What about our fathers? You know they don’t want us to be alone together.”

“Never stopped us before. What are ya? Chicken!”

“Adam Cartwright you take that back or I’ll pound you!”

“I’d like to see you try.”

“Alright, have it your way!”

Judy pinched Adam hard on the arm. He winced and pulled his arm away, giving her hair a soft tug.

“OOOWWW, Why you…” Judy yelled, putting on a dramatic show. Instantly, her mind floated back to her childhood. The times she and Adam had played Cowboys and Indians, Cops and Robbers and other rough house games. She turned around and put him in a headlock, holding him tightly as he tried to wrestle out of her hold. He was laughing now, as was she. He escaped from his headlock, forgetting where he was he pushed her shoulders to the ground pinning her with his weight.

“ADAM CARTWRIGHT, LET HER UP IMMEDIATELY!”

Adam released his hold and stood up quickly dusting off his clothes. He met the eyes of his teacher Mrs. Kindle. Her eyes were furious, her hair which rested in a bun, seemed to bob around as she shook to control her anger.

“JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?!”

A small crowd formed around the spot Adam stood. Judy was standing now also, brushing the dust off of her dress, and righting her hair ribbons.

“Um, we were just….just….joshing around!”

“JUST JOSHING AROUND! I see; perhaps you would like to stay after school today and do a paper on the proper etiquette when confronted by a lady.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Children, back inside. Recess is over!”

Adam stood and watched everyone file in front of him. He knew he would be in trouble arriving late to the Ponderosa. He felt a small shove from behind, as Judy filed past him into the school. She turned flashing him her best ‘I’m sorry’ smile as she walked backwards towards the entrance. In spite of the knots building in his stomach, he smiled back.

*****

Adam mounted his horse, giving his teacher one last look of contempt as he headed towards home. He had endured an hour-long lecture, then had to spend the rest of the time completing the essay his teacher had assigned. After handing it in, she looked it over carefully, and began another lecture on using the brains that the good Lord had given him.

“Adam, you’re late. Hoss said you were kept after school. I thought I would wait for you to tell me what happened.”

“I got kept after school, Pa.”

“Yes, we established that. I would like to know the reason why.”

“Well, we were at lunch, I was watching Hoss play tag. Judy and I started talking, that led to goofing off and I got into trouble. I had to stay after school and write a paper to make up for it.”

“Goofing off, in what way.”

Adam sighed; he was hoping to avoid that part of the story. He felt the knots tighten in his stomach as he forced himself to meet his father’s eyes.

“We um….well….we were just playing around Pa!”

“ADAM!”

“We were wrestling a bit.”

“Wrestling a bit! With a girl. Adam, I raised you better than that. I know you two are friends, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. Maybe it is time you and Judy tried finding other friends, separate yourselves from each other for a bit.”

“PA, I have other friends. We were just messing around. I don’t know why you think Judy is such trouble for me to be around.” Adam was trying hard to keep his anger in check. His father had been trying to keep him and Judy apart for years; he didn’t understand the nature of their relationship.

“That is the problem, Adam; she is seventeen years old. She is a lady now, not someone to roll around in the dirt with. I am not saying you can’t maintain your friendship, I just want you to branch out.”

“I know she is a lady; she is also my best friend, practically my sister. You act like it is wrong for us to be together. I don’t understand it, Pa!”

“Son, I don’t want you to do something you’ll regret. You are both young, I just don’t want anything to happen that could change the course of your life.”

“Nothing’s gonna happen; we’re just friends! I have chores to finish. Can I go?”

“Adam, I just want you to be careful.”

“I know, Pa. Are we finished?”

“Go ahead, son, start your chores.” Ben stepped aside as his son walked past him. He worried that his relationship with Judy would lead to trouble in one way or another. He sighed as he knew speaking with Adam about it now would be useless; he was blinded. He knew in time Adam would come around, listen to reason. He just would have to wait for that moment; he just hoped it wasn’t too late.

*****

Slipping out of his window and jumping onto the logs he had cut earlier, he quietly crept towards the barn. He gave one last glance at his father‘s window and paused, listening for movement, or any clue that his father may still be awake. Satisfied that he was in the clear, he ran to the barn, saddled his horse quickly, and walked him out of hearing range of the house. Mounting him quietly, he pushed the horse into a trot, relishing in the darkness that surrounded him.

“Adam, I wasn’t sure you would still come. Did you get in big trouble with your Pa?” Judy asked as she met Adam at the lake as they had agreed.

“Just a lecture on the nature of our relationship, of course.”

“Oh really, and just what is the nature of our relationship?”

“Well, I always considered you the scrawny big eyed little girl who spent her time following me around like a lost pup.” Adam laughed as he watched his friend’s face brighten to red.

“You are the one that follows me around you prickly, stubborn buffoon!”

“And for that little lady, you can go for a swim.”

Judy screamed as Adam picked her up and flung her into the water. He followed right after her, waiting for her to surface so he could dunk her underneath. Soon they were splashing and wrestling like the children they once were. Finally tiring, Adam lifted her out of the water, then joined her on the bank, resting on their backs and breathing heavily.

“Adam, I don’t want this to end. What if I stayed here, forgot about college?”

“Sure, your Pa’d go for that!” Adam laughed as he squeezed his shirt out over the top of her.

“STOP THAT, YOU BRUTE! Anyway, you’re right; my father would have my hide. It took him almost all of his life to save up the money to send me. I do owe it to him to go.”

“You owe it to yourself to go. There’s not much for you around here. You always talked about becoming an editor. You should pursue that dream, Boston or New York would be perfect to achieve it.”

“I would like to become an editor; it’s just so hard to leave this all behind.”

“You’ll be fine; you’ll make other friends. In a few years, I’ll be headed to college too, if I can talk my Pa into it. Hey, maybe we will meet up again there, if you haven’t moved on by then.”

“Of course we’ll meet up again; that’s not the problem. I don’t want other friends, Adam; I only want you.”

Their eyes met, Adam felt butterflies flutter through his stomach. Her eyes were staring into his; he felt himself blush at their intensity. She leaned forward; his lips ached to meet hers. They were only friends; sure they had kissed a few times, but only friendly pecks meant for a game. He felt different now; leaning forward, he paused feeling her breath on his lips before their mouths connected. This kiss was not playful, it was firm, passionate. Their lips parted; Judy felt herself moan. Soon their tongues were meshed, dueling with each other. Soaked from their impromptu swim, Adam found himself laying on top of Judy, supporting himself with one hand on the ground, their body heat rising through the dampness of their clothes. Adam felt himself swell at this closeness; he had an urge to take her right there. He felt her hands on his belt buckle, aching for more. His mind wandered to the lecture he had received the night before. “I just don’t want you to do something you’ll regret.” His father’s voice echoed in his head.

“Judy, stop. We can’t do this.” Adam rolled off of her quickly, breathing heavily, trying to slow his heartbeat.

“I don’t know what happened. I…”

“I know, Judy, neither do I. Let’s just forget about it, take a walk.”

“Yes, I could use some fresh air.”

They walked side by side, neither knowing what to say. They were both still flush from their brief interlude, working on catching their breath.

“When you’re in college, meeting new friends, learning about the culture, enjoying yourself, do you think it may change you in some way?” Adam asked finally breaking the silence.

“We all change in some ways, I guess. What exactly are you asking?”

“What I mean is, when you are there, looking back on this place, on us, will you have any regrets?”

“Regrets? Maybe just one — that I can’t bring this part of the world with me. Look around you, Adam, the land that belongs to your family. I will regret not hearing the birds singing, the leaves blowing in the trees, the call of the wild. But, one thing I will miss the most, I can bring with me.”

“What’s that?”

“You. I will have our memories. We will write, everyday. I won’t forget you, Adam, and I will never regret a moment of the time we spend together, now or ever.”

Adam slipped his hand in to hers, feeling no need to reply. They had always been comfortable in their silence.

The sun began to set, and the two shifted their hold as she laid her head on his chest. They knew their time was coming to an end. Watching the blue water begin to fade into the darkness, the sun casting the clouds into bursts of orange and pink, Adam released his hold.

“Goodbye Adam; I will see you on Monday. Thanks for spending the afternoon, well, and evening as it turned out. Will your father wonder where you’ve been?”

“I told him I was going out on the land. He probably assumed to be alone. But, I better be getting back before he sends Hoss to find me! See you Monday.”

He turned quickly, and their lips met. It seemed so natural, it just happened. Both eyes opened wide in surprise, then slipped into laughter.

“Bye!” Adam said smiling and walking away. He whistled a tune on his way back towards the ranch house. He could hear his brother Little Joe shouting with his brother Hoss, engrossed in some game. He saw his step-mother Marie tending her garden on the side of the house. He felt a pull, realizing now that time moved much faster than anyone could keep up with. His best friend would soon be gone, his brothers grown up. He looked into the scene, trying to etch every bit of it into his memory; soon that would be all he had left.

“Boys, time for supper. Go wash up,” Marie called to her sons, noticing Adam leaning against the wall of the barn watching his brother’s play. The three headed towards the house, Adam following slowly behind his brothers.

“Guess what, Pa — me and Hoss is gonna catch some lizards, train ‘em to do tricks.” Little Joe said, scooting his food around on his plate.

“Eat your food, Joseph, don’t play with it. What exactly are you going to train these lizards to do?”

“See, Pa, me and the boys were talking at school. Tommy said that he had a lizard that would roll over on command. Reckon we could teach a lizard to do that,” Hoss said reaching for seconds.

“YEAH!”

“Boys, I doubt that a lizard can learn tricks, but I see no harm in trying. Adam, are you planning on helping your brothers on this venture?”

“Huh?”

“Son, you’re awfully quiet this evening.”

“Sorry, Pa, guess I’m just tired.”

“Something on your mind?”

“No, Pa. Just not much in the mood for socializing I guess.”

Ben gave Adam a worried glance, wondering if all Adam had done was ride the fence line this day. He knew they needed to talk — sooner than later — and he tried to make his expression passive as he suggested a trip to the lake. “I see. I was thinking, tomorrow after church you and I could go up to Apache Creek, do some fishing.”

“YEAH FISHING!”

“No, Little Joe, you and Hoss are going with your mother to get some new shoes and clothes at the mercantile. Adam and I will be going fishing.”

“AW, PA, I WANT’S TO GO FISHIN WITH YOU AND ADAM!”

“Joseph, that’s enough. Finish your dinner!”

“Yes, Mon Petit, we will have a good time tomorrow. We can even get some of your favorite treats in town. How does a bag of peppermints sound?” Marie offered, hoping to avoid conflict between her youngest and his father.

“Yeah, Joe, we’ll have as good a time as Adam and Pa, you’ll see.” Hoss interjected, dreading tension at the dinner table.

Joe continued staring at his plate, pushing the food around with his fork.

“So what about it, Adam? A day of fishing with your Pa?”

“Sounds good. I wanted to talk to you about adding an additional room to the ranch house. Can I bring my drawings along?”

“Of course, son. It’s settled then.”

*****

Sitting through church services was harder than usual. Adam had seen Judy that morning, but instead of sitting behind him as she normally did, her father led her to the far side of the room. He wondered why the sudden change; they had sat this way for as long as he cared to remember. Now he worried that maybe Judy’s father had somehow found out about the visit they had yesterday afternoon. He was restless, shifting in his seat. He felt the sudden squeeze of his father’s hand on his shoulder, a warning he knew to settle down and pay attention. Adam blushed. He hated being treated like a child; he should not have to be reminded how to behave in church. He refocused his attention on the sermon, but found himself glancing once again in the direction his friend was sitting. He caught her glance, and their eyes met. She batted her eyes at him, a smile on her features. He felt himself relax, and returned a warm smile. That smile soon turned to a frown as he saw his father move Joe to his other side and motion for Adam to sit next to him. The look on his father’s face was one that would allow no argument. Adam slid next to his father, easing all emotion out of his face as he normally did when he was embarrassed, and focused once again on the sermon.

After service had ended, Ben made his rounds, allowing Adam a chance to escape. He made his way to Judy, and poked her roughly in the shoulder to get her attention. She spun on him with a sharp stare, then realizing who it was that had handled her in such a manner, flashed a smile. He motioned her quietly away from her father and led her outside.

“What was that about?”

“What?” She giggled, knowing exactly what he meant but enjoying the exasperated look in his eyes.

“Why’d you sit away from us?”

“Oh, that. Well my father is working on a deal with the Morrison’s; he wanted to sit near them so they couldn’t slip away after services.”

“Isn’t that a little sinful, bringing business into a church?”

“Who are we to talk about sinful?” Judy smiled, pushing him softly backwards, then drawing him to her by the waist.

“There you are, brother; Pa told me to fetch ya.” Hoss stood, his face full of teasing laughter, as he caught his brother and his brother’s best friend in a rather awkward position.

“I’ll be right there.” Adam said, keeping his cool, but scooting away from Judy to a safer distance. “See you tomorrow, Judy.”

“Bye, Adam.” Judy smiled as he walked away. She felt the urge to rush after him, realizing that the nature of their relationship was under question.

*****

“Bet the fish are biting good today, Pa; it’s the right weather for it.” Adam was trying his best to keep their conversation from drifting to his behavior in church that morning.

“We’ll soon find out. Looks like a good spot over there, a little shade to keep the sun off our backs.”

“Sure, Pa.”

“Adam, I wanted to ask you where you went to when church ended today.”

“Just outside to get some air. Look at that, Pa, already got a nibble.” Adam smiled, but inside his stomach was going tighter; he knew he needed to act fast to get out of this conversation. “Pa, do you remember when we were going through Illinois? We went swimming in that pond. There were so many fish in there, they were nibbling our toes.”

“I sure do; you were fit to be tied. I would have thought those were sharks the way you were trying to climb up me.” Ben laughed, his mind floating back to the days when Adam was so young. There were troubles then sure, but it seemed less than that of his son now becoming a man.

“I didn’t know what it was, Pa; it felt like little fingers trying to pull me in. You didn’t help much; you were as jittery as I was. I don’t remember much about Illinois Pa. Where did we stay there?”

Adam’s eyes shone relief as his father started in on the tale of their travels through Illinois. He smiled at the thought of keeping score: Adam one, Pa zero. With any luck, he could keep him talking of other things the whole afternoon.

“You got a bite there, son. Planning on catching any fish today, or just feeding them.”

Adam looked up, stunned; he was so absorbed in the tale told by his father he didn’t feel the tug on the line. He quickly pulled the fish in. It was a good size; he strung it up on the line, realizing his father must have caught two while he was telling the story.

“We should probably head back soon; the sun is starting to set. Your mother will be worried if we aren’t home by dark.”

“You’re right; let’s load up. Those are mighty fine fish you caught there, Pa; funny I didn’t even notice. I can’t believe I don’t remember much of those days; then again, I guess I was only four.”

“That you were, son. You were always a responsible lad, dependable. I never could have made this journey without you.”

“Pa, thanks for doing this. I know you’re busy.”

“I’d like to do it more often; it doesn’t seem like we have much time to just talk anymore. You know, if you ever need to talk to me, I am here. Just because I am busy doesn’t mean I am not interested in the happenings of your life.”

Adam frowned, looking out over the water. He felt guilty; he didn’t want to make this trek with his father today, worried about his intentions. He did want to talk to him, but he wanted it to be on his own terms. He realized his father had done just that. He hadn’t poked or prodded him at all; he was just enjoying their time together.

“When did you know you were in love with my mother?”

Ben stopped loading the wagon and glanced at his son. He was hoping this would happen, that maybe Adam would open up a little. “It wasn’t right away; we were friends a long time before. As you know, I worked under the command of her father. I guess it happened gradually, both of us seeming to realize there was something more between us when I docked after a long bout at sea. We had a picnic, spent some time together and our feelings turned from friendship to love.”

“What did you do then? You didn’t go back out to sea?”

“No, I stayed behind, worked for your Grandfather when he started his own business. You were born soon after.”

“Did she ask you to stay, not to go back to sea?”

“No, she said she knew I would do what I had to; she would understand. She said she would wait for me. But, I couldn’t leave her, not when I loved her so much.”

Adam stared thoughtfully at his father for some time. Ben headed to his horse and mounted, hoping for more conversation. Looking at Adam and realizing his eyes were still on him, he knew instantly that there would be no more. He saw the look of ponderance in his son’s eyes, and knew he would now spend his time in thought. He often did this as a young child — asked a hard question, then spent days mulling over its answer.

*********

“So, how did the day with Adam go?” Marie asked her husband as he slid into bed beside him.

“We had a good time, spent most of it reminiscing. He did ask when I knew I was in love with Elizabeth, how it came about.”

“And you told him.”

“Of course. How could I not? I told him how it was; in doing so, I realized how alike Adam and Judy’s relationship is with my and Elizabeth’s. We weren’t much older than they are now.”

“Oh Ben, I don’t think it is right for a child as young as Adam to dream about love already. He’s only fifteen. How are we going to get through to him?”

“With Adam, I have learned that he will have to come through this on his own terms. Any pushing on our part will just turn him inward. At least he is asking questions now, maybe not about himself, but questions all the same. I am just going to have to make myself more available to him. I’ve known for a long time that this may happen; those two have always been so close. I thought I would be better prepared for when it happened, but I am not.”

“You’re right about him coming through it on his own terms; he still is sometimes awkward with me. I no longer think he resents me, but sometimes I wonder what he thinks of me.”

“Adam is hard to read, always has been; even as a child he was quick to hide his emotions. That is why I am so worried about him. How are we to really know what’s going on between he and Judy?”

“All we can do is pray — pray that he makes the right choices, and doesn’t end up with a broken heart.”

*****

He lay awake thinking about what he and his father had spoken about. His mother would have let his father leave, even though they knew their love was deep. Could he let Judy leave, now that he knew how he felt about her? He couldn’t stop thinking about her, her smile, her hair. He thought about the few weeks before graduation, and this summer being their last together. He felt sick; thinking of not being able to see her made him ache in a way he never had before. In his mind, visions played through his head — them swimming together as children, running through the woods. Their first kiss when he was only nine. He drifted to sleep, still feeling her lips on his.

*****

“Adam, you getting up this morning? Hop Sing’s downstairs hollering; you missed breakfast.” Hoss stood over his brother who was still sleeping. His father had sent him up to check on him; if he wasn’t up soon, he would be late for school.

“Huh, what time is it?”

“It’s after six; we gotta get to school. I did most of your chores this morning when you didn’t come down. Thought maybe you were sick.”

“No, I’m not sick, musta just overslept. You say you did my chores?”

“Most of ‘em. You best get dressed if we’re gonna make it to school on time.”

“I would get up and get ready if you would give me a minute. Not much I can do with you standing there gawking at me.”

Hoss laughed, realizing his brother was not wearing his night clothes. He hardly ever did unless it was extremely chilly outside. It drove his father nuts, him sleeping without his bed clothes.

“Right, sorry Adam. Good thing it was me came up here and not Pa; you’d get a lecture on going to bed properly dressed.” Hoss laughed and dogged a pillow thrown by his brother. It hit the side of the door, and Hoss stepped out of the room, closing the door loudly, still laughing.

Adam dressed quickly, taking his time with shaving. His father had given him a razor last year when the first sign of a dark beard shone on his young face. He grabbed his books and ran downstairs, hoping he would make it on time.

“DON’T RUN IN THE HOUSE!” Ben chided as his son flew passed him and out the door to where Hoss was waiting with his horse all ready to go.

“Thanks, Hoss,” Adam said, mounting his horse quickly and kicking her into a gallop.

“DON’T GALLOP IN THE YARD!” Ben yelled, standing on the porch hoping to catch Adam before he left.

They arrived to school just as the teacher rang the bell. They were greeted with a stern look, but were able to take their seats without a lecture. Judy met Adam’s eyes and winked. He returned the gesture, and pulled out his work from the night before. He was searching for his math assignment; he could swear he had left it in his book. He felt something hit his arm, then heard it hit the floor. It was a ball of paper. He bent to retrieve it and opened it slowly, trying not to gain the attention of his teacher.

Adam,

Can you meet me after school today?

Your Best Friend

Judy

 

Adam smiled and turned to look at her. Underneath her writing he wrote:

 

Can’t, Pa’s got me out checking the property line, looking for strays. Why, is it important?

 

He tossed the paper back to her, wincing when it made a sound hitting the floor. The teacher glanced towards their section, but only for a moment before she returned to making notes on the blackboard.

She wrote underneath his neat scrawl:

 

What about tonight, after dark?

 

He saw the paper coming and caught it. His friend Jamie let out a soft snicker as the two continued this charade.

Adam returned:

 

A little after midnight, you better be awake. If I get caught, Pa’ll tan me good. You think you’re worth a good tanning?

 

She smiled and quickly wrote:

 

I imagine I am worth at least ten good tannings. I will be awake, climb up the trellis to my window.

 

Adam wadded up the paper and stuffed it into his pocket. He sat through the rest of class, listening intently to the lesson on the first ships to discover America.

*****

“Hey Adam, will you play lasso with me and the boys. I told them you were the best with a rope, Johnny brought his along today.”

“Sure, Hoss, let’s show ‘em how it’s done.” Adam followed his younger brother to stand with his group of friends. He saw Judy talking with her girlfriends by the steps to the school. He held the rope, and swung it evenly, catching the small tree growing to the side of the school. The boys cheered; he handed the rope to Hoss for a try. Hoss gave a few attempts, nearly catching the tree, but missing all the same. The rope was passed around so everyone could have a try. When it came back to Adam, he took a few steps towards the steps where Judy was still engrossed in conversation. He raised the rope above his head, spinning it with expertise. He threw the rope, capturing Judy, and yanking it tight. Judy let out a surprised yelp, then saw Adam holding the other end.

“Adam Cartwright, you let me go this instant!”

The group of boys laughed and shouted as Adam pulled the rope tighter, forcing Judy towards him.

“ADAM!”

“The teachers comin’!” one of the boys hollered. Adam released the pressure, and Judy tried to free herself quickly, but it was too late.

“Adam Cartwright, did we not talk about this foolish behavior just last week?”

“Ma’am, it ws an accident, really. I was just fooling around with the rope…”

“Not another word. I expect you to stay after school today. We are going to have a talk. Then I will be sending a note with you for your father. This behavior will not be tolerated at my school. Now go inside; you will finish your lunch period there.”

“Yes ma’am.” Adam handed the rope to Hoss; he had pulled it back to him and wound it up during the conversation. He headed for the building and took his seat, sinking down low. Being kept after school again would surely earn him trouble. He wondered what exactly that note would say.

*****

“Class dismissed. Adam, remain where you are please.”

Everyone filed for the door. Hoss turned and gave his older brother a sympathetic smile. He also knew that their father would not be happy about this; his eyes threatened tears as he worried for his brother.

“Adam, I would like to know why you continue this behavior, after we have already had a discussion about it.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am.”

“That is not an answer!”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I believe you know exactly what to say. Judy and your relationship has always been questionable. You are both too young to begin courting. I think it is time you two went your separate ways. Judy will be graduating in two weeks, then she’ll be off for college. Since your schooling is now becoming affected by your relationship, I recommend you end it now.”

“Judy and I have been friends for years. It is no business of yours as to the extent of our relationship, Mrs. Kindle.”

“It becomes my business when you set that type of example for my students. I can’t have the boys in my class picking on the girls. You are older than most of these boys; they look up to you. I will not put up with this type of activity. If it happens again you will find yourself suspended, which is exactly what I wrote in this note to your father!”

“SUSPENDED!”

“Yes, suspended. I recommend you do some thinking about that before returning to my classroom tomorrow. One more misstep from you and you will be suspended. That is the end of this conversation; see to it that your father gets this note.”

Adam stood up, grabbing the note from her hand. Not meeting her eyes, he turned and stormed out of the building. Mounting his horse, he thought about throwing out the note; thinking better of it, he stuffed the note into his pocket.

*****

“Hoss, where’s your brother?” Ben asked as Hoss walked quietly into the house. “I only heard one horse ride up.”

“He got kept after school again, Pa,” Hoss said, his head down, studying his shoes.

“KEPT AFTER SCHOOL AGAIN! What was the reason this time, and it better not be something between he and Judy.”

“It was, Pa. We were just playing a game — Johnny brought his lasso to school. I told him Adam was the best at it; we started playing. Then Adam roped Judy while she was standing with her friends. Mrs. Kindle came outside, probably from all the commotion, told Adam to stay after school for a discussion. He didn’t mean nothing by it, Pa; we was just horsing around.”

“I TOLD THAT BOY HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH JUDY WOULD LEAD TO TROUBLE. Being kept after school two days in a row! Well, I guarantee we’ll have a little talk when he gets home!”

Hoss stood staring at the floor waiting to be dismissed. He saw the anger in his father, and once again hoped his brother would take the long way home.

*****

Adam arrived home to the smell of dinner. He cared for his horse, then headed toward the house. The last thing he needed was to endure a lecture from Hop Sing for missing two meals in one day. He washed up quickly, then quietly slid into his seat at the table. He was met with sympathetic eyes from both his brothers as well as Marie, and a ferocious glare from his father. They joined hands for prayer, and Adam swore he could hear his heart beat pounding above the prayer. The meal was spent in silence; the tension could be cut with a knife. Soon everyone had finished, and were dismissed from the table. Adam set out to start his chores, knowing he was in trouble also for not completing his extra work that day.

“Adam, do you have something you need to tell me?” Ben walked up behind his son who was readying to clear the stalls.

“Pa, I’m sorry I was late. I’ll catch up on my chores tomorrow, ride the fence line, and look for strays.”

“That is not what I meant!”

“I know, Pa; here’s a note from Mrs. Kindle. I’m really sorry.”

Ben read the note, his frown growing deeper by the sentence. Adam felt the heat rising to his cheeks, and knew he was flushing red.

“SUSPENDED! YOU HAVE BEEN THREATENED WITH SUSPENSION! THAT IS IT! YOU ARE NO LONGER TO SPEND TIME WITH JUDY, EITHER AT SCHOOL, OR ON THIS PROPERTY! IF YOU CANNOT CONTROL YOURSELF, YOU MAY NOT SEEK HER COMPANY!”

Adam swallowed hard; his father had already started unbuckling his belt.

“THIS IS BEHAVIOR I WILL NOT ACCEPT. YOU KNOW BETTER. NOW TURN AROUND!”

Adam’s eyes filled with tears, flowing over by the blows to his backside inflicted by his father.

*****

He lay in bed waiting for the clock to strike twelve. He was still upset over the tanning he received that evening, and now felt he needed to see Judy more than ever. She could always make him feel better. He heard the chime, and quickly jumped out of bed, still dressed in the clothes he had worn throughout the day. He made his way onto the roof, and jumped down onto the wood pile he had stacked extra high that evening. He walked to the barn retrieving his horse, then walked her quietly out of hearing range of the house. He mounted, and kicked her into a gallop, heading straight to Judy’s small ranch. It was a good ride; he made it their quickly. He knew he was later than he should be, but his father had been up late that night working on the books. He tied his horse up to a tree a distance away from her house, then climbed the trellis as he had many times before. He tapped gently on the window three times as was their code. He saw her shadow move towards him and open the window.

“Adam, I didn’t think you were coming!” she said whispering and pulling him into the room.”

“Just a little late, had to wait on Pa to settle down.”

She watched Adam wince as he set in her hard winged back chair. “Oh Adam, you’re hurt. Was it awful?”

Adam didn’t speak right away; he was upset, but didn’t quite know how to answer that question. Should he say he was fine, or tell her the truth?

“Awful — I don’t know if that is the right word for it. Uncomfortable I could say. Judy, she told me if I was in trouble again I would be suspended from school.”

“SUS….suspended,” Judy quieted herself quickly, then listened for the sound of her father stirring.

“Pa said I wasn’t to see you anymore, at all. I was to avoid you at school, and we could no longer see each other outside of school either.”

“He said that? Adam, what are we going to do? You’re my best friend; I can’t imagine not seeing you.”

“Well, I’ve thought it over, and I think you were right.”

“Right about what Adam?”

“About you being worth ten tannings. I won’t stop seeing you, no matter what. We can still talk during lunch, and on the weekends we will meet at the lake. It may be secretive, but I don’t care.”

“Oh Adam, I hate having to sneak around that much. If you get caught, you know your father will come down hard on you, and mine on me also. But, we have such a short time left together before I leave for school, and I want us to have more time together. We’ll do it, Adam; we’ll just have to be careful.”

“Judy, promise me we’ll keep in touch when you leave, write everyday like you promised.”

“Of course I will. Everyday. I couldn’t stand it not to.” She sat down on his lap and threw her arms around his neck. He returned her embrace, then lifted her chin until her eyes met his. He leaned in slowly, their lips meeting. The kiss was long and slow. Running out of breath, Judy leaned away from him. He sighed deeply, and stood, picking her up in his arms and lying her on the bed.

“I have to go. It’s a long ride back. Not gonna get much sleep tonight. I think we should play it safe at school tomorrow, maybe not spend time together, at least until this whole thing blows over. I’ll meet you again here, tomorrow night, same time.”

“Okay Adam, please be careful. I don’t know if you should be riding all that way alone at night.”

“I’ll be fine; I could do it in my sleep, which may be exactly what I do!”

*****

Adam awoke; he felt he had only just slipped into bed. His eyes stung with lack of sleep; he rubbed them fiercely. After shaving and dressing, he made his way downstairs. He was too tired to eat, so skipping breakfast, he headed out to complete his morning chores. He had to work fast, having extra chores to make up for.

“Adam, you ready to ride?”

“Just gotta grab my books,” Adam said through a yawn.

“Well, dad burn it, hurry up, you know you can’t be late!”

“I’m goin,’ I’m goin’! Since when did my little brother become my mother?”

“Keep talking like that and you’ll ride to school alone, big brother.”

Adam laughed and clapped Hoss on the shoulder. He quickly grabbed his things and headed out the door.

They arrived to school with little time to spare. Adam quickly took his seat in the back of the room, tapping gently on Judy’s desk as he walked by. She covered a yawn, then turned to smile at him quickly before Mrs. Kindle turned to face the class.

“Today, I would like you to pair off into groups of two. I would like you and your partner to draw a map of the world as it would look according to the belief that the world was flat. Be sure to picture it as Columbus would have thought it to be. You will be graded on your ability to place the countries correctly, and your penmanship. Older students pair with the younger students please.

Adam slid next to Hoss; he, being only nine, was considered a younger student.

“Hey Adam, this’ll be fun won’t it, us working together like this.”

“Sure will; you remember the names of the ocean’s we need to write down?”

“I was kinda hopin’ you did; I ain’t too good with remembering all those names of all those places.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why I partnered with you. We can’t get a bad grade with Pa in the mood he’s in. Here, I’ll start with America, then work our way East.”

“Sounds good, brother; if ya want, you tell me the names and I’ll write ’em in.”

“That’s the plan. Here, write America, A-M-E-R-I-C-A. Good job, buddy; your hand writing has really improved.”

“Ma’s been working with me at night. She has real pretty hand writing.”

They worked together diligently for the next hour. Adam glanced around after they had finished, noticing most of the groups struggling to finish. He had always been interested in Geography, so he had little trouble remembering what country went where; he would then spell out the name of each to his brother who would write it in carefully. He caught Judy’s eye, and gave her a wink as he stretched out in his desk, knocking his map to the floor. She bent to retrieve it, taking a long glance and memorizing where some of the countries were placed and handed it back to him. She quickly began filling in what information she could remember from her quick glance at his paper.

“Adam, you letting her cheat?” Hoss asked his blue eyes open wide as he watched her quickly fill in the answers.

“No, I knocked the map off; she was just politely handing it back to me. You know cheating’s wrong; I would never do that.” Adam gave his brother his best innocent smile, hoping to cover his lie.

“Oh, guess you’re right. Hey, after school you want to go up to Mill Creek, catch some frogs or something?”

“Sure, Hoss, sounds good to me. I’m not in any hurry to get home, Pa being upset with me.”

“Are you boys finished with your assignment?” Mrs. Kindle stood above their desks, glaring down at Adam.

“Yes ma’am. We’re finished.” Adam said meeting her glare with one of his own.

“Then sit quietly while the other’s finish!”

“Yes ma’am.” Hoss said placing a hand on his brother’s arm and squeezing tightly. “Adam, you gotta be more careful with Mrs. Kindle there, she’s liable to kick you right out of school.”

“I didn’t say anything wrong; I answered her.”

“It weren’t you; it was your eyes. You know she’s been watching you all day, like she’s just a waitin’ for you to mess up.”

“Well, half the day’s over already, only a few hours to go. I’ll be fine.”

*****

Hoss and Adam sat under the oak tree eating the lunch that Hop Sing had prepared for them. Hoss would not leave Adam’s side as he was worried his brother would find himself trouble again.

“You just make sure you keep tabs on that temper of yours. Can’t imagine what Pa would do if’n you got suspended from school.”

Adam raised his eyebrows at this observation, as he too wondered what would be in store for him; he surely didn’t plan to find out.

*****

“Lookie there, brother, that’s a right fat frog, we gotta catch that one!” Hoss hollered, pointing to a large frog sitting on the bank of the creek.

“I got ’em!” Adam hollered as he jumped belly down, catching the frog between his hands.

“Can we keep it?” Hoss bounced excitedly, lying on his belly next to his brother, eyeing the frog between his hands.

“How we gonna get him home?”

“Should a brought Little Joe; he usually sticks ’em down his pants.”

“You could do it, Hoss.”

“You could do it just as well, brother; huh uh, not me.”

“Guess we ought ‘a let him go then. We don’t have any way to carry him.”

“Aw, that’s the biggest dang frog I ever seen! But, better let him go; maybe we can come back tomorrow with a bucket, catch him again.”

Adam laughed as he let go of the frog, who jumped into the water quickly resulting in a big splash. He turned to Hoss and led him by the shoulders back to the horses. He knew his Pa would be upset at their lateness, but he relished the feeling of just playing once again. He thought of Judy and the times they had played at this same creek, catching frogs, splashing around. He listened to his little brother’s banter, and smiled to himself as he headed off towards the ranch.

*****

“DON’T TELL ME YOU WERE KEPT AFTER SCHOOL AGAIN!” Ben shouted as the boys entered the house, their laughing ceasing instantly.

“N…N…No, Pa, me and Adam went down to Mill Creek, hunting frogs. I asked him to go with me after school.”

“You didn’t tell me that was your plan this morning!”

“I didn’t’ know, Pa; see, me and Adam worked together on this assignment today. I thought it would be something fun to do.”

“Sorry, Pa, we knew we’d only be a little late; we didn’t spend much time there. Didn’t mean to worry you,” Adam spoke up, walking past his father to head upstairs.

“Hold it right there, young man. You know better than to go somewhere without letting someone know where you’re headed. You could have endangered yours as well as your brother’s lives. What if you had gotten hurt in some way?”

“Pa, we just felt like having a little fun today. By the time we rode here to talk to you, it would a been too late to go back to Mill Creek.”

“THEN YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE GONE!”

“Gee Pa, we sure are sorry. You should’ve seen the size of the frog Adam caught, I ain’t ever seen one like it,” Hoss said, stepping in, hoping to cool off the situation.

“Boys, you’re home! Hurry on upstairs to wash up, dinner will be ready soon.” Marie came downstairs carrying a smiling Little Joe with her.

“I AM NOT FINISHED WITH THIS DISCUSSION YET!”

Adam and Hoss stopped as quickly as they had started up the stairs upon hearing their mother’s words.

“Ben, I would like to speak with you outside for a moment. Adam, take Little Joe with you up to your room please.”

“MARIE, I…” Ben was interrupted by an icy glare from his wife. Her temper was raising and her face was reddening. He walked towards the door swinging it open roughly.

Adam, grabbing little Joe, pushed Hoss up the stairs.

*****

“Ben, you are being awful hard on that boy lately. You call this making yourself available to him? If you want him to be able to speak to you, then you can’t go about yelling the way you do!”

“He was threatened with SUSPENSION!”

“And you dealt with it. Now why are you shouting at the boys for simply heading to the creek? Maybe they should have asked permission, but they are boys, and will act as such. I don’t think it will help your and Adam’s relationship with you reacting this way anytime he makes a mistake. He is only fifteen!”

“I expect more from him!”

“WHY?”

“I DON’T KNOW! Maybe because he has always been so thoughtful, responsible, mature. Now all of the sudden he is acting like…like…like a TEENAGER!”

Marie laughed, seeing how Ben realized what he was saying. She wrapped her arms about his waist, and gazed lovingly into his eyes. “He is a teenager, dear; let him be one for a while. I am not saying excuse his behavior, but maybe be a little more understanding of it. Six months ago, we would have been ecstatic if Adam had set about playing. Remember what he was like then, Ben, somber and restless, full of spite. Now, he’s finally opening up. Just take it easy on him, my love.”

“Six months ago…you’re right; he was rather hard to live with. I’ll talk to him, see if maybe we can’t come to an agreement over this new behavior of his.”

“After dinner, dear!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

*****

“So, you caught a big frog huh?” Ben asked, smiling at Hoss, letting them know he was no longer angry.

“Biggest dang frog I’ve ever seen! We tried to find a way to bring him home, but Adam wouldn’t put him in his pants like Joe does!”

Everyone laughed as Little Joe wore a wide grin.

“Pa, you think tomorrow after school, we could head back over there for another chance. We’ll bring Joe along, then we’ll have a way to get him home.” Adam laughed as his brother’s eyes opened wide at the prospect of hunting frogs with his older brother’s.

“Please, Pa! I catch froggies too!” Little Joe said, flashing his bright green eyes in his father’s direction.

“We can all go. We’ll meet you boys at the school; that will save us some time. We’ll bring a picnic along, that way we won’t miss dinner.”

“THANKS PA!” Little Joe and Hoss shouted their excitement.

Adam smiled at his mother, and finished off his plate. “Pa, may I be excused? I have a lot of chores to catch up on.”

“Sure, son, go ahead.”

“Help you with your chores, son?” Ben asked walking out to where his son stood chopping wood.

“Sure Pa, wood still needs stacked. Thanks.”

Ben began stacking the wood his son had chopped; they worked in silence together, working as a team.

“Pa, I’m sorry we didn’t tell you where we were going today; didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”

“It’s fine, son, as long as you don’t do it again. I guess I over-reacted, I know you take good care of your brothers. I’m just getting used to your growing up, I guess I could say.”

“Growing up?”

“You know what I mean, son.”

“No, I don’t, Pa. What do you mean?” Adam stopped chopping and began stacking with his father.

“You know, your feelings for Judy, your actions as of late. You’re just behaving differently. It takes some getting used to.”

“Doesn’t seem to me I’ve changed much. Sure, I’ve gotten in some trouble lately, but it’s not the first time. As for Judy, my feelings may have changed, but since I can no longer even look at her, I guess you won’t have to worry about that anymore.”

Ben studied his son. He saw the way Adam’s body had begun filling out; he was still all limbs, but could tell a few changes. He saw how the boys hair was mussed, a small tuft of raven hair fallen onto his forehead as he worked. He remembered how hard it had been for him when he had fallen in love so young, and his father had pushed hard to end the relationship.

“About that, Adam, I may have been a little hasty. I don’t mind if you speak at school, but other than that, you know you’re not to be alone together.”

“I know, Pa; it’s just that she’s leaving soon for college. I wanted a little more time with her. I was hoping maybe she could join us tomorrow at the creek. You and Marie will be there. Please, Pa.”

“Adam I…,” Ben paused, rethinking his conversation earlier with his wife. “Alright, but only with her father’s permission.”

“YES SIR! Thanks Pa.”

“Let’s go in, son; it’s getting pretty late.”

Ben watched his son walk into the house, hoping he had done the right thing. At least this way he could watch them together and decide just how worried he should be.

*****

Adam rode quickly to the school, excited at the prospect of he and Judy having more time together. He tied up his horse, hearing Hoss chastise him for riding so quickly. He ignored his brother’s complaint and hurried into the school.

“JUDY, GUESS WHAT!” Adam exclaimed, kneeling next to her desk.

“What is it Adam? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so excited!”

“Pa said we could all go to Mill Creek today. Hoss and Joe are gonna hunt frogs; he said you could come along.”

“Really? Why the change of heart?”

“I’m not sure really. So what do you say?”

“Of course I’ll come. I’ll ride over after school and let my father know; you’ll wait for me won’t you.”

“I’ll ride with you!”

“Take your seats please. Open your readers to page twelve.” Mrs. Kindle stood in front of the class, watching Adam and Judy closely. Adam got into his seat and opened his reader; this was going to be a long day. He couldn’t wait for school to be over.

*****

“You are dismissed for lunch. Adam, I would like to see you please.”

The class filed out. Adam wondered what this was about. He had paid close attention all morning. “Yes Ma’am?”

“Adam, I wanted to talk to you about your assignment yesterday. I saw you working together with Hoss; you finished rather quickly. You made a few mistakes, but I noticed on Judy’s paper, the same mistakes were made. You both mixed up the same three countries. That seems like quite a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“Yes, ma’am, it is a coincidence. What three did I mix up?”

“Here, I’ll show you. Now would you explain how you and Judy managed to make the same mistakes?”

“I don’t know, ma’am; we weren’t working together.”

“No, but you were working beside each other. So was it you looking off of her paper, or her looking off yours?”

“Are you saying we were cheating, Mrs. Kindle? That’s an awful hasty accusation, isn’t it, without some sort of proof.”

“The proof is on the paper, Adam. If you are unwilling to admit your actions, then I will have a meeting with both of your fathers so we get down to the truth of the matter.”

“Well, you just have your meeting then, Mrs. Kindle. I did not cheat!”

“Have it your way, then; I will ride out to your father’s tonight.”

“No need; he’s coming here after school. You can speak to him then. May I be excused please!” Adam’s anger was showing plainly on his face. He was worried; he knew Judy had looked off his paper, but he would take the blame if it came down to it. He went outside and stalked off to find Judy. He had to warn her of what was to come.

*****

“Adam, why is Mrs. Kindle gonna talk to Pa?”

“Let it be, Hoss; it’s none of your business.”

“You ain’t gonna get suspended, are you?”

“Don’t know; now quiet. Here comes Pa now.”

“Ready, boys?” Ben asked smiling down at his son’s. His smile turned quickly to a frown when he noticed the tears in Hoss’ eyes.

“Mrs. Kindle wants to speak with you, Pa. Judy rode off to get her father; she wanted to see you together.”

“What is this about, Adam?”

“Ask her. I’ll go sit with Joe.”

“Adam?”

Adam ignored his father and climbed into the wagon with Little Joe. He sat quietly, knees up, fists on his chin.

Little Joe scooted towards him and placed a small hand on his shoulder. “It okay, Adam. We catch froggies.”

Adam met his brother’s smile, and turned his eyes away from his mother’s questioning glance.

******

“Mr. Cartwright, I am so glad you came in today. After Mr. Wright arrives, we can talk of the matter I called you in for today.”

“What is this about, Mrs. Kindle? Is Adam acting up again? I spoke with him the other night about his behavior; I am surprised that he is having trouble again.”

“Acting up, I would say. He is walking a line of disrespect, honestly. I have warned him of his and Judy’s relationship, and am met many times with a look of contempt.”

“He has been disrespectful towards you?” Ben asked incredulously, Adam was raised better than to disrespect a teacher.

“Not with words, only in manner. Here comes Mr. Wright now. Mr. Wright, please come in, have a seat. I will get straight down to business. Here is the assignment from yesterday. The children worked together to create a map of the world. Hoss and Adam completed this map, Judy and Margaret worked together on this map. If you look closely, they both only missed three countries on the maps. Look closer and you will notice it is the same three, in the same order. I will let you draw your own conclusions.”

“Mrs. Kindle, this could be a coincidence. Adam would never cheat on an assignment.”

“My Judy is no cheater either, Mrs. Kindle; there must be some sort of mistake. Let’s call them in; maybe they can explain what happened.”

Adam and Judy were called into the school. They were sitting together under the large oak tree whispering quietly.

“Don’t say a word, Judy; deny the whole thing. She has no proof. If you say you cheated, she will fail you, probably expel you; then you would never get into college.”

“Adam, I’m scared. I don’t want to go in there.”

“It’ll be fine, Judy; just remember, deny the whole thing.”

They walked in together, side by side. Each tried to avoid the questioning glances of their father’s.

“Adam, Judy. I have explained to your father’s why they were brought here today. Now I would like you to tell us which one of you was cheating?”

“Neither one of us was cheating, Mrs. Kindle.” Adam said heatedly, starting straight into her eyes.

“ADAM!” Ben gave a warning look to his son who was being very disrespectful in manner. “How is it that you and Judy would both make the exact same mistakes then?”

“I don’t know, Pa. Maybe that’s the way it was taught to us. Maybe SHE made the mistake.”

“Son, when you are addressing your teacher, I would like your tone to be more respectful; we will talk about that later. Right now, I would like to know if you have any notes taken from this lesson that would show the placement of these three countries.”

“I think so, Pa,” Adam said, looking through his tablet. “Here, this is the map as it was scrawled on the board for us to study last week.” Adam looked at the map; it did show that the three countries he missed were in the wrong order. “Wait a minute, Pa; this map is wrong.”

“Excuse me, Adam, that map is correct. Now, let’s get down to business. I can suspend one or both of you until we get to the bottom of this. What’ll it be?”

“Mrs. Kindle, you can’t possibly suspend them both. Judy is leaving for college; there is less than two weeks of school left.”

“Adam, I am waiting for an explanation. If you did cheat, just tell us. You have to be honest, son, even if you made a mistake by doing it.”

‘PA, HER MAP IS WRONG. WE DIDN’T CHEAT! Judy and I studied together, after school every day. I had the world map from home; we studied from that rather than from her notes. Look, I have it right here. See, these countries on this map are different from the ones on hers. That’s why we missed them. Look, Pa, according to this map, we got the answers right!”

Ben studied the map Adam held in his hands; they did in fact differ from those of Mrs. Kindle’s notes. He handed the map to Judy’s father, who then handed it to Mrs. Kindle.

“I’m so embarrassed, you’re right. It looks like I did make a mistake when I drew the map on the board. I feel so foolish. Please accept my apologies.”

“Yes ma’am. We accept, and let me apologize for my son’s temper as of late.”

“Thank you, Mr. Cartwright; you are free to go. Again, I apologize for the confusion.”

The four of them walked out of the school.

“Pa, can I still go with Adam to the creek?”

“Of course, Judy. You’ll have her back before dark?”

“Yes, Jeb, we’ll be back around eight. We’ll see you then.”

Adam and Judy mounted their horse’ and started in front of the wagon.

“That was close, Adam; I thought I was going to faint. How’d you know about that map?”

“That is what I used to study. I could read it better than the notes I had taken. No one knew we hadn’t studied together, I thought it would be a good cover up.”

“Well, I can say I’m really glad it worked; I will never look off of your paper again!”

“I hope not; I won’t offer again. I thought my Pa was gonna kill me, would have to if we’d a been caught.”

“Mine to. I would have had to run away, headed East on my own.”

“You wouldn’t a been on your own, I’d have been running right there beside you.”

They both laughed as they led the way to Mill Creek.

*****

“Look Pa, there it is, see how big it is!” Hoss bounced excitedly pointing at the frog. “Adam, it’s here, I’m gonna catch him this time!” Hoss leapt towards the frog, but it escaped into the water.

“Hoss, you let it get away. Gotta be quicker on the draw.” Adam laughed as his brother tried to wipe the mud from the front of his shirt.

“Oh, yeah, well, you give it a try then!” Hoss smeared the caked mud further down his shirt, then giving up, turned towards Judy. “Or, maybe you Judy, you used to be the best at catchin’ frogs, I remember.”

“Sure, I’ll give it a try. Don’t know if that one will come up for air anytime soon; let’s find another.”

Ben watched as the children scoured the bank for more frogs. He watched as they each took turns pouncing on one frog after another, Little Joe running between his sibling’s trying to gain the upper hand.

“Make sure you give Joe a chance,” he called laughing as Joe jumped onto Adam’s back who was lying on the ground, a small frog in his hands. Adam handed the frog to Joe, and Joe walked to the bucket to put it in.

“Look at them, Marie. Doesn’t seem like any of them are growing up. I don’t remember the last time I saw Adam play like that. Judy was the only one who could ever get him to come out of his shell. I walked in one time to the barn — Adam was Hoss’ age at the time, nine I think. He had wrapped one of his shirts around his head, untucked his shirt, and unbuttoned the top four buttons so it was hanging open. He had a stick in his hand, waving it wildly against an invisible intruder. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was a pirate, saving a maiden in distress from a fire breathing dragon. I had never seen him participate in make-believe activities until that day.”

“He was always serious as a child, wasn’t he, Ben. I remember the day I arrived home with you. He struck me then as much older than he really was. I wondered how an eleven year old boy could be so somber all the time.”

“He always had a lot of responsibility, I had to depend on him, forced him to grow up quickly. He took charge after Inger died, caring for Hoss and me. He made sure I ate supper, led the team to stay with the wagon train. I don’t know what would have happened if he had not been there. I like seeing this side of him. I’m afraid this will all change when Judy leaves in a few months.”

“It will be hard I’m sure. I hope he is able to talk to us about it, not bottle it all inside. I’ll miss this side of Adam too.”

Marie leaned into Ben as she watched her boys play. Laughter echoed around them, each boy gloating with each capture, Adam staying near Judy, letting her have first dibbs when a frog was spotted.

“Boys, we have to get going. The sun will be set soon enough; we have to get Judy home.”

“Awe Pa, I ain’t ready to go!” Joe whined.

“Now Joe, I will have none of that. Unload your bucket, see who caught the most frogs.”

“Can’t we bring ‘em with us Pa? Maybe me and Joe and Adam could teach ‘em tricks.”

“No Hoss, I don’t want all those frogs near the house. They make an awful racket at night. Leave ‘em here, son; they’ll be happier anyways.”

“Yes sir.” Hoss said, secretly handing the big frog to Joe, and watching him slide it into his pants.

******

“I had fun tonight, Judy, did you?”

“Of course; I caught the most frogs. That means I win; you have to do whatever I say for a week.”

“I don’t remember making that bet.”

“Oh. Maybe that’s because I didn’t tell you about it until I knew I wouldn’t lose!”

“You, my dear, are a snake.” Adam whispered quietly, hoping his brothers would fall asleep, giving him a little privacy with Judy.

“Adam, look at Joe. Is that something moving in his pants?”

“Oh no, I bet it’s that frog. Sure hope it doesn’t escape where Pa can see it.”

“I think they’re asleep, look at ‘em.”

“I think you’re right. Looks like Pa and Marie are having quite a conversation up there too.”

“About that bet, I have your first order.”

“Order huh, what is it?”

“Kiss me.”

“I am at your command Miss Wright.”

Adam scooted closer to Judy, staring into her eyes he leaned forward, then stopped as their lips gently touched. They continued staring; Judy pressed forward. She felt a tingle from her lips to her toes, and shuddered at this feeling overtaking her body. Adam put his arms around her, his hands running through her hair. She could feel him shaking also, wondered if he was cold. Hearing a throat clear loudly, Adam jumped back. He looked towards the front of the wagon, where his father sat. Marie turned her head and gave him a look of raised eyebrows. He scooted to the far side of the wagon, away from Judy. He winked at her, then lay his head back and closed his eyes.

*****

“Bye, Judy, see you tomorrow.”

“Good bye, Adam; thank you for allowing me along Mr. Cartwright.”

“Yes, tell your father hello for me.”

“Yes sir. Good night.”

Arriving home, the sun had long set. Hoss and Joe were still sleeping peacefully as the wagon pulled to a stop. Adam unhitched his horse from behind the wagon; hiss father had insisted they ride in the wagon on the way home, to help keep Little Joe out of trouble. He watched his father carry Hoss and his mother carry Little Joe into the house. He took care of the rest of the team, and finished up his barn chores. He carried some wood into the house, placing it into the wood box in front of the fire place. Heading upstairs to his room, he heard his father’s voice. Hearing his name, his ears perked up; he knew eavesdropping was wrong, but couldn’t fight the urge to find out what they were talking about. He stood in front of their closed bedroom door and pressed his ear against it.

“Did you see the way they were behaving in the wagon? If they are doing that with us present, what are they doing when we are not?”

“Ben, they are not allowed to be alone together, and I don’t think they have had the chance. What are you so worried about? You don’t think we can trust Adam?”

“It’s not that I don’t trust him. It’s that love makes you do some things that you may not be proud of later on.”

“I don’t think they have done anything regrettable, Ben. If you’re so worried, why don’t you just ask him?”

“I can’t ask Adam if he has slept with Judy; that is not something that I want to get into. Besides, what if he says yes, what then? Do I lock him in his room until she goes off to college?”

“No, you talk to him about what can happen. Have you spoken with him about love between a man and a woman?”

“There hasn’t been a need. I wouldn’t know what to say!”

“You surely know what to say. He has to know something about it at his age. I think you should speak with him. He is mature enough, and if it hasn’t happened yet, maybe he would realize it is not something he should do.”

“Marie, how do I even bring it up? I don’t want to do this.”

“You don’t want a grandchild out of wedlock either, Benjamin! Talk to him.”

Adam heard the sound of feet heading towards the door. His face red with embarrassment, he ran for his room. Slipping off his boots, he jumped fully clothed into bed. He knew it was too early to pretend to be asleep; he stripped off his shirt, and grabbed a book. He wanted it to look like he was ready for bed. He heard soft knocking on the door, and watched it open slightly.

“Adam, can I come in?”

“Sure Pa, I was just getting ready for bed.”

“I see; son, I need to talk to you. Do you have a minute?”

“I’m pretty tired, Pa. Can it wait?”

“It’ll only take a minute, son.” Ben walked in and pulled the captain’s chair up next to the bed. He glanced around the room, trying to find a way to start this dreaded conversation. He stood, hoping his son did not see his trembling hands. He surveyed the collection of books on his son’s shelf, and fingered the wooden truck he and Adam had made together years ago. He ran his hands over the guitar strings, a gift from Marie when she heard of Adam’s love of music.

“Pa?” Adam asked watching his father wander around his room.

“Yes, son. I wanted to talk to you about, well….about you and Judy.”

“Pa, there’s no need really. I…” Adam was interrupted as his father turned to face him, a flush of red across his cheeks.

“You and Judy seemed rather close on the wagon ride home. I wanted to talk to you about it.”

“Pa, it was just a kiss. It just happened, I didn’t mean…”

“It wasn’t the first time you two have kissed I take it. That was definitely not a first kiss.”

“Pa!”

“Adam, I don’t want to talk to you about this any more than you do, but it must be done. Do you know what it means to love a woman?”

“Sure, it means that you would do anything for them. That you think about them all the time. It’s a feeling…”

“Yes, all those things, but Adam, have you ever been with a woman?”

“Been with a woman Pa?” Adam whispered, his own face betraying him by turning bright red.

“Answer the question, son.”

“NO, PA!”

“Good, that’s what I wanted to hear. You know the risk that comes with being with a woman then?”

“I don’t want to talk about this!”

“NEITHER DO I, BUT WE MUST!” Ben yelled back, his own embarrassment causing his temper to flair. “Do you know the risks of being with a woman?”

“You are so intent on having this conversation, why don’t you tell me!”

“Fine, I will. She could get pregnant.”

“Yes, go on.”

“There are certain illnesses one could obtain; it is a very serious matter. Being with a woman is a big responsibility, one that should not be attempted until after marriage.”

“Are we done?”

“ADAM, I DO NOT APPRECIATE YOUR SARCASM. I AM TRYING TO HAVE A SERIOUS CONVERSATION WITH YOU!”

“Well, thank you for your concern. I will have you know that Judy and I have not shared our love in that way. I understand what it means to respect a woman, and I plan to wait until I am married before being with a woman.” Adam managed to reply calmly, hoping to end this conversation quickly.

“Good, good! So, are we done here?”

“I think so, Pa.”

“Good night then.”

“Pa, hold on a second. I want to talk to you.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Pa, where do babies come from?” Adam asked smiling wide, enjoying his father’s discomfort.

“Adam, I thought…what were we just talking about then?” Ben stammered, wondering how he would answer this question. He was still flustered from their earlier conversation, and it took him a minute to realize he was being chided. “That is not funny young man. Go to sleep! AND PUT ON YOUR BED CLOTHES!”

Adam laughed as his father walked out of his room, slamming the door behind him. Ben stifled his laugh until he made it behind his own closed bedroom door.

*****

“Judy, you’ll never believe what Pa talked to me about last night.” Adam smiled, sharing his sandwich with Judy during lunch break.

“What?”

“He and I had a talk, you know, the birds and the bees.”

“ADAM, REALLY!”

“You act like you’re embarrassed. What about me? Let me ask you, Judy. Do you know about the birds and the bees?”

“You are unbelievable sometimes, you know that!” Judy’s cheeks were crimson; she reached out and smacked him hard on the arm.

“I take it that is a no, well let me explain then…” Adam moved away as she swung at him again.

“Do you think your father would mind my stopping by this evening, I am having trouble with my final essay, and I could really use your help.” Judy changed the subject, hoping Adam would lay off the sarcasm.

“I doubt it, but you know they’ll be watching us like a hawk.”

“That’s okay. I am really struggling, and you’ve always been good with words. I’ll come by for supper, Hop Sing won’t mind, will he?”

“He loves when you come for supper; he always feels special when someone compliments his cooking, and you do plenty of that!”

“Great! Look Adam, Mrs. Kindle is watching us too. Maybe we better part ways.”

“Yeah, I’ll go over with Hoss. See you tonight.”

Adam walked towards Hoss, giving Mrs. Kindle his best sarcastic look. She scowled back, and walked away from the window.

*****

“Pa, Judy is going to stop by for supper. She needs help with her final essay. I told Hop Sing already. You don’t mind do you?”

Ben winced; of course he minded. He already felt ill at ease, knowing that he would have to watch Adam and Judy like a hawk, yet maintain his distance so they were unsuspecting.

“I don’t mind you helping her with her homework, Adam, but I do ask that you stay in the great room while you work.”

“That’s fine Pa, thank you.”

Judy arrived just in time for dinner. Coming in, she walked over to the wash basin. She had been in this house so many times, it felt like a second home.

Marie greeted her, and led her to the settee for a chat before dinner. “Judy, I am so glad to see you Mon Cherie!”

“Marie, you too. Wasn’t it fun catching those frogs last night?”

“I love to watch the boys play. Little Joe stuffed that big frog in his pants, gave me quite a scare when I undressed him for bed.”

“Where’s Adam? Is he here?”

“He should be shortly; he went out with his father after school. They were moving the herd to the west pasture.”

“Oh. I wanted to thank Mr. Cartwright for allowing me over tonight, I can’t believe the trouble I am having with this essay. It is on the difference between society of the west, and that of the east.”

“Really, I would be glad to be of help. Coming from New Orleans, I defiantly know the difference between societies. Things here are much more rugged, yet relaxed.”

“I’ll take all the help I can get, thank you, Marie.”

Adam and Ben rode in late to the house. There had been trouble with the herd, and they were late for dinner. Adam noticed Judy’s horse still in the yard, and hurried in to apologize. He stopped short, seeing Marie standing over Judy, helping her with the essay.

“Adam, hello. What happened? You missed dinner.” Judy said, seeing Adam enter the house quickly.

“Trouble with the herd. Marie helping you then?” Adam tried to hide the irritation he felt for his stepmother’s intrusion.

“She did; actually, I am finished now. Your mother is quiet insightful.”

“Marie is quiet insightful, isn’t she.” Adam said emphasizing the word Marie to replace mother, his comment full of sarcasm. Marie looked at him dejectedly, her eyes full of hurt. She knew that Adam and her relationship was not as she wished, and any chance he had of reminding her of it was taking its toll on her. She stood quietly, and left the room.

“Adam, why did you say that? She was only being nice.”

Adam looked away. He was ashamed; he himself did not understand why he felt the need to remind Marie she would never be his mother. Judy walked over to him, knowing he was now feeling ashamed. She placed her hands on his shoulders and waited for him to meet her eyes. He looked up slowly, his cheeks reddening, and met her cool blue eyes.

“I know it is hard for you to open your heart to another mother, Adam, but you are making a big mistake. Just because you lost two mothers does not mean you will lose a third. You really should give her a chance.”

“So, you’re done with your essay then. How about a game of checker?” Adam said, still looking into her eyes, hoping she would let him off the hook. He was in no mood to discuss his feelings in the middle of the great room.

Judy walked towards the checker board, sensing now was not the time to push the subject. She knew he would open up in his own time. He had before, when they were young, spoken of his love for Inger and the pain it had caused him to lose her. He cried over never knowing his birth mother, and his fear of losing others he loved.

“You know I always win. Why do you even bother?” Judy smiled, breaking the tension that had set in between them.

“We’ll see about that, lady!” Adam said flashing a smile, glad to get off the subject.

*****

Adam walked Judy out; it was getting late and the sun would soon be setting. His father stood on the porch smoking his pipe, trying to pretend he wasn’t watching the two.

“Well, thanks for coming by. Sorry I wasn’t able to help you with your essay.”

“A game of checker’s beats homework anytime. Think, just one more week of school and I graduate. Seems like just yesterday was my first day of school. Remember how you held my hand when I first walked in? I was scared to death. Now, will you hold my hand when I walk out for the last time?”

“Of course I will. Don’t worry so much; college will be great.”

“Oh Adam, I wish you could be there to hold my hand walking into that school, I’m still scared to death!”

“I’ll be there, just not in person.” Adam spoke quietly, leaning in to kiss her forehead. His father cleared his throat rather loudly. Adam planted the kiss and stepped back, glancing at his father, an annoyed expression on his face. His father nodded at him, and Adam sent Judy on her way.

The next week passed quickly. Adam and Judy spent every lunch period together, ignoring the glares from their teacher. On the last day of school, the day seemed to zoom by. The anticipation in the classroom was high; it was the beginning of summer vacation for most and the end to an era for others. Adam and Judy were unable to spend time together when school ended that day. Judy’s family was preparing for a party, and she had to get home to help decorate. Adam was sullen; he wanted so badly for this day to not come at all. Now he felt the pressure of the clock ticking, time with his best friend running out, and nothing he could do to stop it. He knew he would not be able to face Judy when the day came for her to leave without feeling like he lost his first love. He rode home silently as Hoss spoke excitedly of what he would do with his time this summer.

The family rode out in the wagon for Judy’s graduation party. The house and yard were decorated, lots of food and desserts were lined up among many tables. Judy sparkled in the dress she had made for the occasion. Adam stared at her in disbelief; he thought it impossible for her to look any more beautiful than she had any other time he had seen her. She ran over to his wagon before he had even stepped down. Ben gave her a hug, and a congratulations, followed by Marie. Judy stepped in front of Adam, wrapping him in a warm embrace, then pulling him by the hand into the crowd. They mingled with the guests, and Adam laughed as Hoss never left the area which held the food. He had consumed an entire pie before his father stepped in to pull him away. Little Joe played chase with a few other children his own age, and Marie kept a close eye on his activities. Adam and Judy snuck away while everyone’s attention was elsewhere. Headed to their old hideout, located just inside the woods, Judy ran pulling Adam along behind her. They made it safely into their own private fort, constructed loosely of old boards. They had to duck low into the opening, and crawl hands and knees inside. Adam sat in his usual spot, near the corner of the hideout and Judy slid in beside him resting her head on his shoulder.

“We could get in big trouble ya know,” Adam said resting his head on hers.

“I know,” Judy replied, not caring if they were caught.

“Your dress is going to be a mess, crawling around and sitting on this old dirt floor.”

“It is,” she replied again nonchalantly. “Adam, do you remember when we built this old thing?”

“It wasn’t that long ago; it’s when my father left me and Hoss with your father when he went to New Orleans. Hoss tagged along with us so much, we needed a place to hide out. I feel guilty about it now; I know he was just lonely and bored, missing Pa, like I did.”

“You really did. I remember the day he left; you tried so hard to be strong for Hoss. We had a good time, though, didn’t we? That was before we were no longer allowed to be alone together. My stepmother adored you, always said you were so mature and respectful.”

“Your father didn’t think so. Remember when we went fishing that time? I wandered off where he told us not to go. He used that switch on me. Still stings to think about it.”

“How could I forget? Could hear you shouting from the wagon. I felt so bad for you, wished there was something I could have done.”

“I wish we could stay here like this forever, just you and me. We could build the fort a little taller, of course, put in a kitchen. I could hunt food; you could gather wood for a fire. Live off the land, just you and me.”

“I would be a princess; you my handsome prince. We could have children, name them after emperors. We’d have to build a mighty big fort!”

They laughed as they spoke more of the fairy tale life they could lead. Hours passed before they even knew it. Seeing the sun setting, Judy grabbed Adam’s arm tightly. “We have to go; it must be late, Adam. Surely everyone’s noticed our absence by now.”

“You’re right; we’re going to be in big trouble. Let’s go, maybe we can sneak back in, talk some of our friends into covering for us.”

They hurried back to the party, their faces deflated as they noticed all of the guests had already left. The only wagon remaining was the Cartwright’s. Ben and Jeb stood outside of the house; both had a menacing look on their face as they spotted their children coming out of the woods. Jeb’s eyes widened as he saw the state of Judy’s dress. Judy looked down, realizing what she must look like, and what her father was thinking.

“Judy, get on up in your room while me and Adam here have ourselves a little talk.” Jeb said quietly but with conviction.

Judy fled from Adam, heading straight for her room. Adam watched her go, fear engulfing him as Jeb approached him, rage filling his features.

“Jeb, now wait a minute, let’s not jump to conclusions. I will speak with Adam; you go speak with Judy.” Ben jumped in, sensing that Jeb was planning on doing more than just speaking with Adam.

Adam stepped back as Jeb approached, hoping his father would step in as Jeb showed no sign of retreating.

Ben grabbed Jeb’s arm, and spun him towards him. “Jeb, go speak with your own child; I will speak with mine. MARIE, BRING THE CHILDREN, WE ARE LEAVING!” Ben shouted so his wife would hear him from the house. Keeping his own body between Jeb and his oldest son, Ben led Adam quickly towards the wagon. Jeb stood still, glowering at Adam, making no move towards his own home. Marie brought Hoss and Little Joe out quickly, and helped them into the wagon. Adam was sitting in the far corner, visibly shaking and watching Jeb with a close eye. The wagon lurched forward, and Adam relaxed a little. Hoss scooted beside him and put a hand on his knee. Little Joe climbed into his lap and lay his head on his chest. Adam let himself feel comforted by his two younger brothers, knowing he was about to be in the biggest trouble of his life.

The wagon stopped in front of the house. Not even bothering to put up the horses, Ben grabbed Adam by the arm and led him into the barn. Adam’s stomach dropped, and he felt nauseas. He felt the bile rise up in his throat, and tried to wriggle out of his father’s grasp before he vomited. Ben only tightened his grip on his son. After losing his dinner, Adam stood, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, and felt himself being pulled once again to the barn. He looked for the comfort of his brothers’ eyes on him, but Marie had quickly guided them into the house. Adam thought he heard Little Joe wailing as the barn doors closed with a bang.

Ben didn’t speak right away; he couldn’t find the words. He saw Adam and Judy come from the woods, their clothing dirty and askew, and dreaded hearing the answer to his questions. He knew his son had gone too far; he and Judy had committed an ultimate sin — fornication. He did not yet trust himself to speak; he was afraid of the anger building inside of him.

Adam stood quietly, not sure if he should speak or move. He could feel the anger searing in his father, and knew exactly what he was thinking. He wondered if he would even believe him when he told him all they had been doing was talking. He felt sick again, and turned slightly, closing his eyes tight, hoping to fight off the urge to retch once again. He felt his father approach him, and Adam kept his eyes shut. If he could just keep his eyes closed, maybe this whole thing would just disappear. If I cannot see you, then you cannot see me, Adam laughed inside, remembering his thoughts as a child.

Ben stood in front of his son whose eyes were now shut tight. He was taken back to a time when Adam had been five years old. They were in the store with Inger, who would soon become his wife and Adam had dipped his hand into the candy jar. When he was caught by his father, Adam had closed his eyes and said, “But you can’t see me, Pa!” He stood staring, trying to see that little boy inside this gawky teenager. He saw one of Adam’s eyes slowly open.

“I would like to know exactly why you would deliberately disobey my instructions to you on being alone with that girl. Then I would like to know just what you plan to do about the situation you have gotten yourself into. Fifteen is way too young to get married, but under the circumstances…”

Adam interrupted, “We were just talking, Pa.”

Ben stopped, glaring at his son for the interruption, and unsure of how to handle the situation at hand. “JUST TALKING! FOR FOUR HOURS YOU WERE JUST TALKING! LOOK AT YOU! YOU ARE COVERED IN DIRT; YOUR CLOTHES ARE A MESS. JEB IS PROBABLY ON HIS WAY HERE RIGHT NOW. HE COULD PUT A BULLET IN YOU! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT YOUR ACTIONS THIS DAY HAVE CAUSED YOU!”

Ben was yelling now, and Adam’s head was pounding. His father was just inches from his face, and he never remembered him being this angry before ever.

“We went to our old hide out, the one we built when you left Hoss and I there to go to New Orleans. We had to crawl in — the opening is very small — then we just sat in side and talked Pa. Nothing happened, I swear.”

“AND I AM TO BELIEVE YOU! AFTER YOU DID EXACTLY WHAT I TOLD YOU NOT TO DO, AND YOU WENT OUT ALONE WITH THIS GIRL FOR FOUR HOURS!”

“This girl is Judy, Pa, my best friend. I would never do anything that would risk her being hurt. I did not do anything with her, WE JUST TALKED!”

“Don’t you raise your voice to me, child; you’re in enough trouble as it is.” Ben voice was extremely quiet. Adam felt his knees grow weak. The quieter his father’s voice got, the more angry he really was. He was barely speaking above a whisper now. “Go into the house and up to your room. I don’t want to see or hear you for the rest of the night. I will be up before bed; we will finish our discussion then. Right now I can’t even look at you!” Ben whispered ferociously. He was beyond angry; he was consumed by the urge to shake some sense into his son. He feared what would happen when Jeb got his hands on him.

Adam’s eyes filled with tears at his father’s words. What did he mean he couldn’t even look at him? His father had never said anything like that before; the words spoken hurt worse than any tanning he could receive, or so he thought. Adam ran from the barn and into the house. He took the stairs two at a time and flung himself down on his bed, burying his head into his pillow. He tried to stifle the sobs, so his family couldn’t hear. The wait for his father seemed to take all night. By the time he heard footfalls on the floor, he was physically sick once again.

Ben stopped outside his son’s door, hearing him be sick once again. This confirmed his belief that his son was guilty. If he was not guilty, he wouldn’t be taking this all so hard. Ben put a hand on the door knob and turned it slowly. He had Marie take the other two boys for a walk so they would not hear what was about to go on.

Adam finished being sick, and pushed the pot back underneath his bed, he heard the doorknob turning slowly. Why didn’t his father believe him? He didn’t lie. Well, maybe a few times, like about cheating, but his father didn’t know that. His father’s words echoed again in his head. “I can’t even look at you!” Adam stood, backing towards the wall as his father came in. In his hand he held the strap. Adam’s back met the wall.

“I am very disappointed in you, Adam. I have tried to be patient with you, about your relationship with Judy. I gave you the opportunity to talk with me, ask questions. I trusted you to listen, and follow my advice. I see I was wrong, and that you chose to act as an adult. You are not an adult, Adam; you are fifteen years old. I am ashamed of your actions, but most of all, I am hurt. As of this moment, you are on punishment. You are confined to this yard; you may not go past the barn. You will be assigned extra work around the house, and may only come out of your room to do your work and to eat your meals. You will speak only when spoken to, and as of now, you may have zero contact with Judy. I hate doing this, Adam, but you give me no other choice; talking seems to have had no impact on you, so now I will let this belt do the talking for me. Lean over the chair, son; I hope this is one lesson you will remember.”

Tears were falling from Adam’s eyes as soon as he heard the word disappointed at the beginning of his father’s speech. He endured the worse tanning he had ever gotten, and could not help crying out in pain. He sunk to his knees when the lashing finally ended, and stayed that way as he heard his bedroom door close. He tried to stop the flow of tears, but even his stubbornness would not allow him to do so. He couldn’t even stop the breathy moans escaping his body as his chest heaved, trying to breathe. His father was ashamed of him, disappointed, hurt. He sunk down to the floor onto his belly, not noticing the pain from the whipping as much as that of his father’s words. He hadn’t done anything; no one believed him. He had to do something!

Ben walked slowly down the stairs, throwing the belt into Adam’s favorite blue chair. He sat in his own red chair in front of the fireplace he and his son had built together. He laid his head in his hands and cried, feeling despair for his son who was no longer able to be a child. He had crossed the line, and now had to face life as a man. He heard his other two children outside. Hoss was crying loudly, he must have heard his brother’s yelps of pain. Marie was trying to soothe him, and Little Joe was shouting something about the new kittens in the barn, trying to cheer his brother up. Ben sunk lower in his chair, and wiped his face. He tried to still the tears that were falling, but being unable, stood and began pacing instead. He heard footsteps on the porch, and not wanting his wife and children to see him in such a state, started towards the kitchen. The front door opened and his wife came in, holding Hoss’ hand and speaking soothingly to him. She stopped abruptly and looked towards the stairs. Ben had stopped upon hearing their entrance, trying to give his wife a signal to go back outside. Instead his gaze followed hers to the top of the stairs. Adam stood still, his eyes pouring tears, his nose running, his hands in tight fists by his side. Ben locked eyes with his son, both lost in their own emotions.

“You okay, Adam? I heard ya yellin’; Ma wouldn’t let me come in,” Hoss said heading towards the stairs.

“We were just talking Pa. We didn’t…… I couldn’t……..You don’t……Please don‘t hate me!” Adam was trying to speak between sobbing breaths, but he couldn’t calm his thoughts into one sentence. He needed his father to believe him, to listen. He couldn’t stand to look at the man who now thought so little of him; he stared hard at the floor. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t stop crying. He felt his emotions spiraling out of control. He suddenly thought of Inger, and how he needed her to hold him now, to comfort him, she would have believed him.

Ben stood staring at his son. He had never seen Adam lose control this way, and there had been plenty of opportunities. He felt glued to the floor, his legs full of cement. He saw his son in pain, and could not go to him. He managed to stop Hoss before he went up to his brother. He stood holding Hoss’ arm, and continued staring at his son. Did he say something about hating him?

Marie watched as her husband froze at his oldest son’s display of emotion. She moved quickly past Hoss and up the stairs. She grabbed a hold of Adam’s shoulders and tried to get him to look at her. He was still trying to speak, but no words could be heard through his sobbing breaths. He met her eyes, and she looked deeply into them. “Marie, I didn’t……….She’s just………….We were just talking.”

Adam searched her face, seeking any sort of comfort. He felt her wrap her arms around him in a tight embrace, and he laid his head on her shoulder. His shuddering sobs filled the house, as Hoss and Little Joe were now crying also. Ben let his tears fall also, and gripped Hoss’ shoulder a little tighter, then reached to pull Little Joe to him.

“Adam, let’s go upstairs, have a little talk.” Marie said gently, pushing him towards his room. He let her guide him, and sat down hard onto his bed. He felt dizzy now, and slowly lays his aching body onto his bed. He lay on his stomach and continued to cry into his pillow as Marie rubbed small circles on his back.

“It’s okay, honey, go ahead. Let it all out. It’s okay, Baby, your Pa still loves you. We all love you, Adam, go ahead and cry.” Marie said, hoping to bring some sort of comfort to her crying child. She heard his breathing become steadier as he gathered himself. She saw Ben enter the room, tears still streaking his cheeks. He sat next to Marie on the bed, and placed one hand on her back, the other on Adam’s.

At his father’s touch, the tears he had started to get under control consumed him once again. They sat still for a long time, both of his parent’s sitting on his bed, letting him know they were there. Adam’s tears finally slowed, he kept his face buried, fearing the look in his father’s eyes. The look of disappointment, shame, anger.

“Look at me, Adam,” he heard his father say softly, but not holding a threatening tone.

Adam composed himself a bit more, and brought his head up from the pillow. He first looked to Marie; seeing her smile calmed his nerves a bit, then met his father’s eyes.

“Pa……..I know I shouldn’t have run off with her, but really we were just talking. You have to believe me, I know your ashamed of me, I know I hurt you. I’ll understand if you don’t want to speak to me, but please believe me, Pa. Please!” The tears fell silently once again from his hazel eyes; there was a dullness to them now, they lost their golden hue.

“I believe you, Adam. I am still disappointed that you would go against my orders, but I believe you. I didn’t before, but I know you well enough to see that you are not lying to me. Settle down now, boy; we’ll figure this out together.”

Adam scooted over and laid his head in his father’s lap. His body was trembling as the strong emotions he felt worked their way out of his system. He felt Marie reach over and stroke his hair.

Ben looked at Marie as his son lay in his lap. Adam barely let him touch him anymore; this display was totally out of character for Adam. He felt Adam pull his shirt into his fist, as he used to do as a child. He would do this when he was sick or hurt, Ben would wait until he fell asleep, then pry his fingers loose. He pulled Marie close to him, and sat with his arms around her as she stroked her son’s hair. He felt himself patting his son’s back, but seemed to be floating in a fog. He didn’t know how long he had sat there, but Adam’s even breathing told him that he was now asleep. Ben pried his shirt from his son’s grasp.

*****

“Ben, what are we going to do?” Marie asked as they stepped quietly out of Adam’s room.

“Pa, is Adam okay?” Hoss asked from the bottom of the stairs, holding Little Joe in his arms.

“Come on up, boys, get ready for bed.” Ben said quietly, thinking of how they would handle this situation in the morning.

Hoss carried Little Joe upstairs; Marie lifted the crying child into her arms. Hoss followed behind as she put Little Joe to bed. Ben led Hoss to his own room, and tucked him in.

“Pa, you hate Adam?”

Ben looked at his son startled. His mouth hung open as he stammered out his answer. “No…No…..Hoss, I could never hate any of you. What makes you say that?”

“Adam said it Pa, when he was on the stairs. You didn’t say you didn’t.”

“No matter what mistakes you boys make, there is nothing you can do that would ever still my love for you.”

“I ain’t never seen Adam so upset. He’s in big trouble, huh, Pa?”

“He made a mistake, Hoss, a big one. But we are a family, and we work together to help each other. He will be okay, but he will need your love and support.”

“Okay Pa. Maybe tomorrow I will read to him from one of them books he likes so much. That’ll make him feel better, huh.”

“That’s a good start, son; you should do that. Good night, Hoss, sleep tight.”

“Night, Pa.”

Ben walked to check on Little Joe. Marie was reading him a bedtime story. He walked to his room, and dressed for bed.

Marie came in shortly after. “What are we going to do, dear? We are going to have to speak with Jeb.”

“I’ll ride out in the morning, but I think it wise that Adam stay here. I don’t know how Jeb will react, and I don’t want to risk Adam being hurt.”

“I agree, but what are you going to say? What if he doesn’t believe you?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” Ben rolled over, willing himself to sleep. It would be a long night.

*****

Adam woke during the night. He felt terrible, his stomach was still turning. He was nervous, and scared; he needed someone to talk to. He stood, noticing he was still wearing his clothing from the day before. He changed into his night clothes and walked quietly down the hall. He stopped in front of his brother’s door and heard him snoring. He opened the door slowly and peered in. Hoss lay sleeping soundly in his bed, the moonlight shown directly on his face giving him an angelic glow. Adam walked in and sat on the side of the bed.

“Hoss, wake up.” Adam said quietly, shaking his brother lightly.

“Wh…What is it? Adam?”

“Yeah, it’s me. I need to talk to ya.”

“Are you hurt? What is it?”

“I can’t sleep; I was hoping you would keep me company.”

“Sure I will, brother; you kept me company enough, I s’pect I owe ya. Climb on in.”

Adam climbed in beside his brother. He had slept in here a few times, but that was always for Hoss’ comfort. This was the first he’d ever sought out comfort for himself.

“Pa said you was gonna be alright, Adam. I don’t know what’s going on, but I sure heard you getting punished fer it. I’m sorry you went through that. You still sore?”

“Very. But, that’s not the trouble. Pa’s real mad at me, though he said he believes me about what happened. He’s disappointed and ashamed, I should’ a listened to him.”

“Wanna tell me about it?”

“No, not really. Thanks for letting me in here, Hoss.”

“Any time, big brother; my door is always open. If you decide you wanna talk, just wake me up.”

“Thanks, Hoss. G’night.”

“Night.”

Hoss rolled over smiling. It made him feel good that his brother was seeking his company. He had always wanted to return the favor, all those times he had climbed into Adam’s bed.

*****

Ben rolled out of bed and dressed quickly. He wanted to get out to Jeb’s house early, get this over with. He skipped breakfast as his nervous stomach would not allow him to eat. He mounted his horse and rode of towards the Wright’s ranch. He and Jeb had been friends for years; he took Adam and Hoss in when Ben had left for New Orleans. Surely Jeb would believe him.

Arriving at the ranch, Ben noticed Jeb was not home. The wagon was gone, as well as his best horses. Ben started to follow the trail of the wagon, hoping to catch up to his friend. He heard the wagon coming towards him; he wasn’t far from the house. Jeb was the only one present in the wagon; Ben wondered why Judy didn’t answer the door. “Jeb, I came to speak with you, about Adam and Judy.”

Jeb pulled the wagon to a stop, and stepped down to unhitch the horses.

“Nothing to talk about; it’s over.”

“What do you mean, Jeb? I need to talk to you. You see, they didn’t do anything; they were just talking. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I know my son, and he’s telling the truth. Nothing happened between them.”

“I know nothing happened. Judy said so, and I believe her. Doesn’t matter now anyway. She’s gone.”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“I sent her off to Boston this morning. She can get there early, get a job. She’ll earn some money before school starts.”

“You sent her to Boston this morning? Jeb, she just graduated.”

“Had to. Just because she and Adam didn’t act last night, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t coming. She thinks she is in love with him. You should have seen the way she broke down because she couldn’t say goodbye. It was for the best; they are both too young to be involved the way they wanted to be. Judy has a life ahead of her. Sending her to it was the best way I could think of to help her.”

“I see what you mean, Jeb. I know things were getting out of hand. Adam will be devastated when he finds out she’s gone and he didn’t see her off. I have to admit, though, I was very worried about their relationship. Honestly, I am kind of relieved.”

“Ben, we’ve been friends for a lot of years. I still would like it to be that way. But, I had to think of my daughter first, keep her safe as long as I can. I don’t know what will happen in Boston, but at least she has a better chance of becoming who she always wanted to be — an editor, not a young mother. Try to explain it to Adam. He has her address I know, but she won’t arrive to Boston for a while; you know how long that trip can take. I’m sorry, Ben. If I had known how serious their relationship had become, I would have tried to intervene sooner.”

“No, Jeb, don’t apologize. I knew things were getting out of hand; I should have spoken with you. I better get back to the ranch. Stop by and visit us sometime, Jeb; we always welcome visitors.”

“Goodbye Ben.”

*****

Ben walked upstairs to Adam’s room. Everyone was still sleeping. He opened the door quietly and noticed Adam’s bed was empty. He hadn’t seen Adam outside so he hadn’t started his chores, and he was told not to go past the barn. Maybe he was in the kitchen, Ben headed back downstairs.

“Hop Sing, you seen Adam?” he asked looking around the kitchen.

“No see Mista Adam, still sleeping. I make him special breakfast, help upset stomach. Too much crying lead to be sick.”

“That is fine, Hop Sing, I don’t have an appetite of my own either. He wasn’t in his room, couldn’t be sleeping.”

“Check brother room; Hop Sing hear talking late into night.”

Ben raised his eyebrows in thought. Would Adam have gone to Hoss for comfort during the night? He started again up the stairs and stopped in front of Hoss’ door. He went in quietly and a smile played on his lips. Adam looked so young lying next to his brother. Hoss lay facing him; Adam’s left arm was slung over his brother’s shoulder. Knowing as soon as he touched his oldest son he would awaken (he had always been a light sleeper), Ben stood silently, watching his sons breathe in unison. Tears formed in his eyes remembering the events of the night before. How could he now tell his son that his best friend was gone, probably forever. She would begin a new life in Boston, Adam would finish up school here, then take on more responsibilities at the ranch. He tried to etch the image of his oldest son in this innocent position into his mind. Soon, his son would be different, his childhood lost, as the friend who had opened up his heart was now gone for good. He would lose the childishness that she had so easily brought out of him when no one else could. Ben only hoped he would not close himself off to the rest of his family, spending his time alone as he had before. He could no longer hold himself back; he knelt down, eye level with his sleeping son and ran his fingers through his dark curls. Adam did not open his eyes, but Ben could tell he was awake. He leaned in and placed a kiss on Adam’s cheek, something he had not been allowed to do for years now.

Adam felt his father’s kiss on his cheek. He relished in the comfort; he hadn’t done that in years. He knew it was his fault; his father had tried, but he had always ducked away. He kept his eyes closed, hoping his father would continue expressing his love for him. He needed to know that things really were all right.

“Adam, son. I need to talk to you,” Ben said when his kiss had not prompted the reaction he was expecting. Adam opened his eyes; some of the light in them had now returned. “Come on to your room, son; let Hoss sleep.”

Adam scooted away from his brother as embarrassment for his father seeing him this way crept into his cheeks. He followed his father into his room, and watched as he sat on the bed instead of in the captain’s chair as he usually did when they had talks.

“It’s about Judy, son. I rode out to speak with Jeb this morning.”

“Does he believe me, Pa? I could ride out myself. If both Judy and I told him what happened, he’d have to listen.”

“He believes you already; Judy told him last night. No, I don’t want you going out there.”

“Is Judy okay? Did you see her?”

“No, she was already gone when I got there.”

“Gone? What do you mean, Pa? She didn’t run away, did she? You have to let me look for her, I’m sure I can find her…”

Adam was interrupted as his father stood from the bed and knelt in front of him, grabbing his hands.

“She’s gone to Boston, Adam; she left for school. Jeb thought it best that you two stay apart. She left on the stage this morning.”

His heart was now in his throat; he swallowed repeatedly to try to push it back down. His features clouded and his lips sealed shut. He pulled his hands away from his father and turned his back towards him. “You told him to do it, didn’t you, Pa. You said you believed me but you don’t. You’re glad she’s gone.”

“I had nothing to do with it, Adam. She was gone before I got there. I know you’re upset, son; that’s why I wanted to do this alone with you. Let’s talk about it, tell me how I can help you.”

“You can help me by leaving me alone. I don’t want to talk about it; I know how you felt about our relationship. I can see it in your eyes that you’re relieved. You can’t keep us apart forever. As soon as I graduate in two years, I am going East to college also. Leave me alone Pa, just leave.”

“Of course I am relieved. What father wouldn’t be when his son who is just fifteen is courting a girl? But don’t think that I am not sorry for how this all turned out. I know how much you wanted to say goodbye.”

The anger inside of Adam was reaching a boiling point. He blocked out his father’s words. Why wouldn’t he just leave? Adam stood and walked out of his room, his father still kneeling on the floor. He heard his father call to him for his return, but ignored the call. He walked downstairs and out the front door. His father’s horse stood still saddled, tied to the hitching post. Knowing he didn’t have much time before his father caught up to him, he mounted the horse and took off, galloping in the yard as fast as the horse would go. Leaving his father bellowing behind him, he headed towards the mountain ridge.

Ben ran towards his son, who had just mounted his horse. Buck was a powerful horse, tall and strong. He worried his son would not be safe, and tried to stop him. He watched the dust fly as his son galloped away, headed towards the mountains. He felt a tug on his shirt sleeve and met the eyes of his younger son Hoss.

“Where’s he going on your horse, Pa?”

“I don’t know, son, but I have to catch him. Saddle up Rosie; I have to go after him.”

“Yes sir,” Hoss returned as he headed towards the barn.

*****

Adam ran the horse hard; in a way it was a jab at his father. He felt powerful, controlling this beast that belonged to his father. He led the horse far into the mountains where his tracks couldn’t be followed. He just wanted to be alone. Finally finding a clearing, he tied the horse to the nearest shady tree. He searched his father’s saddle bags hoping to find something to eat. He found some jerky, but even better he found paper and an ink blot. He sat down and began to write.

My dearest Judy,

If you are reading this you have made it to Boston safely. I hope your trip went well, and you feel safe and secure. I cannot tell you how hurt I am by the way our families have behaved. My father was practically glowing when he told me what Jeb had done. He didn’t want us to be together in the first place. Well, he can’t stop us; I will be there in only three years. Though that seems an eternity away, I know that time will pass quickly. Where did all these years go? I took you for granted, never thinking that someday we would be apart. We have been together ten years, with a little break in between. Why didn’t I know I loved you sooner? I let all that time slip by, never expressing how I truly felt. Then again, I didn’t know how I truly felt until I knew that you were leaving me.

The world looks different now. I sit under this tree in these mountains, and no longer see beauty. I see emptiness. When I looked at these trees before, I saw your reflection in them, the times we spent climbing them, or sitting beneath them. I saw your beauty, now I see nothing. Wait for me Judy, enjoy your time there, knowing that we will soon be together again. Don’t forget me, as I could never forget you. I love you Judy.

Yours Truly,

Adam

 

He folded the paper carefully and stuck it into his pocket. He would have to ride to town to send it on its way. He knew Judy wouldn’t arrive in Boston for weeks, but he planned to send her a letter a day as he had promised. He sat under the tree, reminiscing about the best friend he had lost. Pulling his knees to his chest, his arms folded over them, he lay his head down and cried once again. A part of him had died that day; he felt the last bit of his childhood slip away with each tear coursing down his cheeks.

Ben rode, following the trail of his horse which dead-ended near the mountain. He listened intently for any sound indicating where his son may be. Hearing nothing, he let his instinct take over, and walked the horse slowly, deeper into the mountains.

Night was falling now; he had spent at least eight hours searching for his son. Exhaustion from a long emotional day was taking its toll, and even though he was sick with worry, knew he could not continue his search much longer. He turned his horse towards home, and keeping his eyes and ears alert for any sign of his son, set the horse into a trot for home. Maybe Adam would be there already.

It was dark now; Adam knew he needed to go home. He just couldn’t bring himself to do it. He couldn’t face his family, especially now. He had convinced himself that they were celebrating Judy’s departure. They were always jealous of their relationship. He had taken the horse a few times for water, but knew the animal was quite hungry. He was hungry also, and though he wanted nothing more than to stay out here alone forever, he led the horse towards home.

“Where could he be, Ben? It’s dark. What if he’s been thrown, he’s hurt? What if he’s run away?!” Marie was pacing in front of the fire place. Her two sons watched with worry as she spoke of their older brother. She started to rave again, but stopped as she heard footfalls on the porch. She ripped the door open, fearing it was the sheriff, praying it was Adam. Her prayers were answered as Adam walked into the house.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, YOUNG MAN? YOU HAD US ALL WORRIED SICK!” She screamed at her stepson’s back as he walked past her. He continued on towards the kitchen not answering her, and disappeared around the corner. Marie’s face held a look of shock and fury at the disrespect she had just received from her oldest son.

Ben started towards the kitchen. His worry was now overtaken by anger as he saw his son sitting at the kitchen table eating the bread that lay in its center cooling. Adam avoided his look all together, looking only at the bread held in his hands.

“Stand up and face me, boy!” Ben’s words were quiet; he was on the edge of breaking. Adam ignored him and sat continuing to eat his bread. His features showed no signs of him even hearing his father.

Ben reached forward and grabbed his shirt, bringing his son instantly to his feet in front of him. The bread fell from his hands. “I will not tolerate this behavior in my household. You were told not to go past the barn; you steal my horse and disappear all day. What do you have to say for yourself?!” Ben demanded finally releasing his grip on his son’s shirt.

Adam faced his father, the rage within him spilling out with the sweat descending down his forehead. He willed himself to speak, but his anger held him back. He truly feared what he may say. He took a step back, out of his father’s reach, watching his eyes carefully. He turned around and walked into the great room where the rest of his family sat. He felt his father approach him from behind, angry footfalls echoing each step.

“I’m leaving,” Adam said quietly, into the air of the great room looking at no one in particular.

“You’re doing nothing of the kind. SIT DOWN!” Ben was losing control of his anger now; his hands were shaking, fighting for control. He heard Hoss and Joe sniffling near the fireplace where they had sat hoping for their brother’s return, now dreading it.

Adam continued standing, staring straight ahead. He could make a run for it he thought. But he had already stabled the horse; he wouldn’t get far on foot. He felt strong hands on his shoulders pushing him down onto the settee.

“I SAID SIT DOWN!” Ben’s voice boomed through the house, causing his other two sons to gasp.

Adam winced as his bottom met the seat, but he sat still, not speaking, refusing to look in the direction of anyone in his family.

“I will not sit back and allow you to take your feelings out on this family. We were worried sick about you. Now you say you’re leaving. Tell me Adam, where would you go?”

He refused to answer. His father could physically force him to do a lot of things, but he could not force him to speak. At least he had control over that.

“ANSWER ME!”

He leaned back into the settee, still avoiding everyone’s looks. His father knelt in front of him, trying to force their eyes to meet. That was one other thing Adam could control. He closed his eyes tightly.

“Adam, ADAM! I will not tolerate this disrespect; you will do as I tell you. Look at me!”

He continued to keep his eyes closed and blocked out his father’s words. He imagined himself in Boston with Judy. They could stay with his grandfather; he was sure he wouldn’t turn him away, not after he had traveled so far. They would be married as soon as they could, which would be a couple of years. They would start a family of their own; both of them could go to school. He felt himself being lifted off the settee by the arm. He winced at the strong hold he felt on his muscle. He was being led upstairs, his eyes still closed. He felt himself sit down on his bed, but continued to keep his eyes closed. He lay down, his hands behind his head, as he continued his daydream.

Ben stormed out of the room. How could he reach his son if he wouldn’t even acknowledge him? Adam had never behaved in this manner; he may be a little sarcastic and rude at times, but he had never shown blatant disrespect. He stood at the top of the stairs, fighting the urge to use the belt on his son. Maybe that would make him speak, or maybe that would drive him further away. He saw Marie waiting at the bottom of the stairs, her beautiful green eyes welling with tears. He turned and walked into his own bedroom.

“Little Joe, let’s play down here; I think momma and Pa need to talk.” Hoss was holding his little brother who had tried to follow his mother upstairs.

“I wanna see Adam!” Little Joe cried as he struggled to free himself from his little brother’s hold.

“Now’s not the time, little brother, and I don’t think Adam feels much like talking. Here, I’ll go get our toy soldiers; you go get some cookies from Hop Sing.” Hoss shuffled his brother towards the kitchen, then ran quickly up the stairs to get their toy soldiers.

“You think Ma is gonna come put us to bed?” Little Joe asked as Hoss tucked him in. It was much later than their usual bedtime, but there had been no sign that either of his parents were coming to put them to bed.

“I don’t know Joe; here, I’ll read you this story. Maybe we’ll both fall asleep. I’ll stay in here with you tonight, how does that sound?”

“GREAT! Tell me the story about those three bears, Hoss; I like that one!”

Hoss smiled as his three year old brother batted is eyelashes at him, his green eyes sparkling at the thought of a sleepover.

“Sure thing, little brother; that’s my favorite story.”

Morning had seemed to come quickly. Adam rolled over to shut out the sunlight, but it was not helping. Today would be a long day; he knew it was still early, and he listened for sounds of his father downstairs. Hearing nothing, he got up quickly and dressed. He thought if he could get busy on his chores, maybe he could avoid his family. He walked past Hoss’ room and noticed the bed empty. He didn’t hear anyone downstairs, so where could his brother be? He walked a few doors down to his youngest brother’s room. He saw them there, curled up together. He wished he could curl up right between them. He turned back and descended the stairs, headed to the kitchen. He wasn’t able to have dinner last night, so he hoped maybe Hop Sing would fix him up some breakfast.

“You no eat supper last night; Hop Sing forced to waste food!” Adam was greeted by the short cook with a hot temper. “You and family yell, too much feelings. Need to work out problems!” Hop Sing continued his rant.

Adam sat patiently at the table, waiting for the cook to offer him something to eat. He looked up gratefully at the plate filled with eggs, bacon, and potato cakes. Potato cakes were his favorite, a treat he did not receive often. “Thank you,” he said quietly. Digging into his food, and eating seconds, he sat thinking of his next move.

“You eat good; Hop Sing happy. You tell Hop Sing now your trouble, Hop Sing help number one son.”

Adam scowled; no one could help, Judy was gone. Hop Sing sat across from him, and waited patiently for an answer. Adam shrunk lower in his seat and gave Hop Sing a hard glare, prompting him to leave it alone. Hop Sing continued to smile, waiting patiently for him to speak.

“You happy that she’s gone too?” Adam asked finally speaking, angry words spitting from his lips.

“No one happy, Mista Adam; everyone upset, same as you.”

“Yeah, RIGHT! Pa practically danced with joy, he wanted her to go.”

“You not looking at father when he speak. Hop Sing see sadness. Family like Judy; she make Adam play like child. Father love to see Adam play.”

“I’m going to Boston; I don’t want to be here without Judy. I love her Hop Sing. We’re getting married, gonna start a family.”

“You too young start family. Only fifteen year old. You finish school, then go Boston. You not really believe father happy she go; you use as an excuse.”

“What do you know? Don’t tell me what I feel!” Adam stood up quickly. He knew Hop Sing was telling the truth; he didn’t want to face it. He knew his family cared about him. He was afraid now, if they loved him so much, he would only hurt them further when he left. If he could make them love him less, than it would be easier on them when he headed East.

“Hop Sing know how boy feel. Always know. You tell father how feel, he understand. Need to talk Mista Adam, no hold it in.”

“Just shut up Hop Sing!” Adam ran from the kitchen running directly into his father on the way out.

“What did you just say?” Ben asked holding his son steady in front of him.

“Let me go!”

“Adam, you can’t keep doing this. You can’t speak to people this way; I taught you better than that. Now you apologize!” Ben gave him a stern shake and turned him to face Hop Sing.

“I’M SORRY ALRIGHT! NOW LET ME GO!”

Ben turned his son to face him once again. “I will not let you go. Do you understand me? We are a family; we work together to solve our problems. You are not leaving this house; you will stay here and talk to me. Don’t you see how you’re hurting your family, your brothers? Hoss and Joe shared a room last night; they have been crying over you for the past three days. Can’t you see how your behavior is affecting them? Adam, we need to work this out.”

“I don’t want to talk about it, Pa! I want you to leave me alone!” Adam’s eyes betrayed him by once again filling with tears.

“Adam?” Little Joe stood in front of his brother. He slid his body between his father, who still was holding Adam’s shoulders. He hugged Adam tightly around the legs, gazing up at him. “You leaving? I don’t want you to go. You said you’d teach me how to ride Bess.”

Adam look down at his little brother, those green eyes shone sadness. He felt the guilt of knowing how scared and confused his brothers must feel.

“Your brother asked you a question, son.” Ben said, looking into his son’s eyes.

Adam met his father’s stare, and his heart skipped a beat. He really did love them; he ached with the feeling. He wanted his father to hold him, make everything better. But he had been let down so many times, especially after the death of the woman he considered his mother. Then with the arrival of Marie.

“Adam? Don’t you love us no more, don’t you wanna stay?” Little Joe said, gripping tighter to his oldest brother’s legs.

Adam’s lips trembled as he fought to keep the tears from falling. He tried to find his voice. Every one was watching him expectantly, Hop Sing, his father, Little Joe, even Hoss was now standing behind his father.

“I…..I……why Pa? Why?” Adam said collapsing against his father’s broad chest. Little Joe wiggled out from between them, and stood waiting. After a few minutes, Adam knelt down to his brother’s level and pulled him to him in a big hug. Hoss came over to get some of the action too.

“I’m not leaving, Joe; I won’t. I do love you.” He said standing slowly, his eyes dry, facing his family. “I just want to go lay down for a bit, okay, Pa?”

“Okay, son. Just call if you need anything. I’ll come up later.”

Adam walked quietly out of the room. He had to write Judy. He walked into his bedroom, and over to his desk. Pulling out paper and ink, he sat to collect his thoughts.

 

Dear Judy,

I promised to write every day, so here it goes. I left yesterday, for a long time. I had to get away and think for a while. I took my father’s horse, and didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I wanted them to feel the way I felt when I found out about you. In a way I hoped that they would be angry with me, and it wouldn’t be so hard on them if I left to come after you. I know now that my actions will never cost me their love. It kills me that I made them all hurt so much.

It will be hard here without you, but we will make it through. My feelings for you have not changed, I miss you every second of the day. You’re the last thing I think of when I go to sleep at night, and the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. Even though I can only speak to you now on paper, I feel our bond radiating through this pen. Running through my head over and over again is only one question, Why? Why did it have to be this way? We should have had the whole summer together. Why couldn’t I have gone with you? Why did this happen when we’re both so young? Why didn’t you stay?

Write as soon as you can, let me know of your travels. I know that you couldn’t stay, and I really wouldn’t want that of you. But, it just doesn’t seem to make this any easier. I love you and miss you.

Truly yours,

Adam

 

He folded the paper neatly, and placed it next to the one from the day before. He lay down on his bed, and closed his eyes, hoping to see her face floating above him and not being disappointed. He knew he would hear from her soon, and that was the best he could expect. He had a lot of apologizing to do with his family. But, he smiled knowing that he was already forgiven before the words were even spoken.

*****

Part Two – The Longest Journey

 

Adam finished packing the bags he would need for his travels to Boston. His stomach was swirling with nervous excitement, it danced with anticipation. He put in a few of his favorite books and snapped the bag closed. Carrying his bags downstairs, he set them in front of the door and went to find Hop Sing.

“Mista Adam leave now?” Hop Sing asked when Adam greeted him in the garden.

“Yes, I came to say goodbye. You know you could ride to town with us, see me off on the stage.”

“Hop Sing much work to do, say goodbyes here. I pack special favorite treat in bag; eat slow, remind of home.”

“Thank you, Hop Sing.” Adam pulled Hop Sing into a tight embrace; he would not see him again for many years. Hop Sing pulled away and turned around quickly, hoping the oldest son would not see his tears.

“You learn lot, Mista Adam; come back to fatha. You write letters.”

“I will, Hop Sing. You’ll hear from me soon. I’ve really got to go. You sure you don’t want to ride to town?”

“You go; Hop Sing no time for talk. Live well, Mista Adam.”

Hop Sing watched Adam walk away; this time he let his tears fall freely. He and Adam had always had a special bond, as Hop Sing did with all three boys. After the death of Marie, the bond only grew stronger, as Hop Sing could tell when Adam was upset, and would work hard to get him to speak about his emotions. They had many late night talks, especially recently with Adam heading off for college.

“All set then, son?” Ben asked as he took the bags from his oldest son and set them in the wagon.

“That’s it, Pa. C’mon Hoss, Joe, let’s go.” Adam shouted as his two little brother’ walked very slowly from the barn to the wagon. He easily lifted in Little Joe, who recently had a birthday, and had just turned six. Hoss climbed in next to Joe; he being twelve was already only a head shorter than his eighteen year old brother.

Adam wanted to keep the mood light, so he sat in back with his brothers, Little Joe on his lap. Adam told them stories from his travels with his father on the wagon train. He reminisced about he and Hoss and the adventures they’d had while building the ranch house. He talked about the birth of Little Joe, and how loud his wail could become when he was bored or restless. The brother’s listened intently; their oldest brother always had a knack for story telling. They arrived to town quickly, none of them realizing it until they pulled up near the stage station.

“Here we are, boys!” Ben said doing his best to sound cheerful. This was going to be hard enough as it is without his son’s knowing that inside he was screaming. The stage could already be heard in the distance; that did not leave much time for goodbyes.

Adam lifted Joe down to Hoss, then jumped off the wagon himself. His throat was tight with tears, and his hands were shaking a bit. Saying goodbye to his family was the hardest thing he would ever have to do. Adam walked over to Hoss first; they had already talked about his departure, and both were trying very hard to stick to their agreement of no tears.

“Bye, brother. Next time I see you, you’ll probably be a little taller than me.”

“A little taller? I’ll probably be twice your size, older brother.”

Adam tightened his hug around his little brother. They had been through so much together; Hoss was his best friend. He felt Hoss shudder, and knew that they were both about to break their agreement. Adam stepped back and wiped the back of his hand quickly across his eyes. Patting Hoss on the shoulder who now had his back turned to him, Adam leaned down to Little Joe.

“Bye, Little Buddy. Now don’t you go growing up on me, ya hear?”

Little Joe looked shyly at the ground; he didn’t know what to say. He felt himself pulled into a hug, and drew in one big breath. His brother smelled of the laundry soap Hop Sing had used, yet with a hint of the Ponderosa pines. He held tight around his oldest brother’s neck, not wanting to let go. Adam had been teaching him to lasso. Who would do it now? Who would kiss his scraped knees when Pa wasn’t around? Who would tickle him before bedtime?

“Gotta go, little buddy; you’re choking me.” Adam said in a muffled voice, trying to loosen his brother’s grip from around his neck. He handed Little Joe off to Hoss, then turned towards his father.

“Well, Pa, looks like they’re ready to go,” Adam said, not sure of how he would be able to turn away from the man he loved and leave him for four years.

“Better get on the stage then, son. Here, I’ll walk you over,” Ben said, his hands shaking as he tried to look happy. He put his arms over his son’s shoulders and walked him to the stage door. Adam stopped in front of it, then stood and stared. Ben turned him to face him and pulled him into a long embrace. He hadn’t been able to hug his son like this in years; he was surprised how tightly Adam squeezed back.

“Pa, I don’t have the words,” Adam said, his head lying tight against his father’s broad chest.

“Me either, son; just know that we love you. This is what you should be doing, and we’ll be fine. Don’t forget to write.”

“I won’t, Pa; I’ll write on the road so you can track my progress.”

“You need to go, son; climb on up.”

Ben guided his son into the buggy, though he felt a little resistance. Adam sat in the seat, his face a dark mask. He reached a hand out the window and touched his youngest brother’s hand who was now reaching towards him.

“Don’t go, Adam, I want you to stay. DON’T LEAVE ME! DON’T LEAVE ME!” Little Joe was sobbing now, trying to hang on to his brother’s hand. He didn’t understand why his brother would go away; he wasn’t sure he would come back. His mother went away and she never came back. He kicked and screamed as his hands were pried from his brother’s; he tried to get out of Hoss’ grip so he could chase the stage which was now off in the distance. The stage disappeared and he buried his head in his older brother’s chest, feeling his Pa grasping for him. His father took him from Hoss and he held him up, patting his back and rocking him gently. They slowly made there way back to the buggy, feeling like part of their own soul had just left on that stage headed East.

Adam heard his little brother’s cries, and saw how red his hand had become from little Joe’s grip. He held in the burning tears, and thought of how maybe it was too soon for him to go. It had only been a year since that horrible accident that had taken his stepmother’s life. He closed his eyes and tried to think of anything else; his mind wandered to that of his best friend Judy. He wondered if she was still in school. He was sure she must be; it had only been three years, but it had been so long since they had corresponded. He thought back to when her first letter had arrived.

Dearest Adam,

I hope this letter finds you. I was surprised to find a month’s worth of letters from you upon my arrival, but must say I was very pleased. My travels were long and hard. I missed my father, you, the ranch. I was upset with everyone for the way I was ushered onto that stage with no time for goodbyes. I had a month of lonely travels to think things through, however, and came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best. I love you with all my heart, and I know eventually, had I stayed near, we may have changed the course of our lives forever. I still wish you were here with me, but here I must be. I must pursue my dream.

I cannot wait for these two years to pass when you will be able to join me here. From your letters, I can tell you and your father have had many discussions about your going East to school. I will get the town ready for your arrival.

I am staying now in a boarding house owned by a friend of my father’s aunt. My room is small, yet cozy. The city here is amazing, the harbor, ships coming and going. You will be amazed at the hustle and bustle around here. The ocean is breath-taking. I am completely unpacked, I only was able to grab a few items. My father wired some money so I can get the proper attire. People really do dress differently here. Anyway, I planned to write daily, but I am so busy with work, this may become difficult. Adam, my love, I can’t wait to see you. Hold to your promise and come this way to Boston so we can be together once again!

Love Always,

Judy

 

Adam had this letter memorized as it was the first he had received. He did not receive another letter for nearly a week. At first, they had written often; he wrote every day, until the round up. Then he could only write once or twice a month. Then, as school started again, he had made other friends; the letters became less. She had also begun school, made new friends, studied hard. Eventually they wrote only every couple of months. As the years passed, the letters became even more sparse. The last letter Adam received was six months ago. After Marie’s death, he had written to let her know. He received a letter quickly back expressing sympathy and grief. Then it seemed he no longer knew what to write. He wondered if she was now in a relationship. The last letter he received pointed in that direction.

 

Dearest Adam,

I know it has been some time since I have last written. Time here seems to slip away quickly. I think of you each day, and hope that all is going well. I know Marie’s passing has been hard on everyone, and I know you have taken on most of the responsibilities around the ranch. Little Joe sure sounds like a handful. I hope you father begins feeling better soon. I fear you are taking on too much. Remember I am here, and I am listening if you can put your feelings on paper. I still consider you to be my best friend, and am saddened that I cannot be there to provide comfort during this trying time.

I am doing well in my classes, and have many friends. We go to parties often, and society really is much different here. I stood out for a while, my language different from theirs. They don’t use words the same as we do, they told me they do not speak Western Slang. Well, I have learned how to speak and act with the best of them. Robert has taught me a great deal, spending many nights and lessons on proper etiquette here in the East. He is in a few of my classes, and I think you two would get along well, though he does not have much of an imagination. He is gentle and kind, very friendly.

I know your arrival here was delayed due to the accident, but I do hope you are still planning to come. Maybe next year. I must go, my love, there is much studying to be done.

Love Always,

Judy

 

He had not written Judy to tell her of his coming. He wanted it to be a surprise. Now however he was not sure this was the best laid plan. He wondered if she and Robert were now a couple. How would it look for her if he came waltzing in? The constant rocking of the stage was making him drowsy; he felt his eyes close, and was soon met with sleep.

*****

Ben pulled the wagon in front of the house. Hoss started to unhitch the team. Little Joe stay seated, a lost look upon his face. He seemed to be searching for something or someone. Ben lifted him gently out of the wagon and walked him into the house. Sitting in his favorite red leather chair that faced the blue one his oldest had always sat in, he held Joe softly and stroked his hair.

Hoss busied himself with chores; that helped him keep his mind off the emptiness he felt. He stayed out of the house as long as he could, but knew supper would be ready in no time at all. How could he face that empty chair at the dinner table? He heard Hop Sing call for dinner, and he walked slowly to the house. He was hungry, but not at all looking forward to eating. His father and brother were already seated at the table, making Adam’s chair look all the more empty. Hoss swallowed hard, and took his place, next to his little brother. Hop Sing brought out the dishes, and Hoss wondered at those red rimmed eyes. Maybe it was the onions that were giving them that watery hue.

*****

Adam woke much later. It was already dark, and he realized he had slept through most of the day. The stage was stopping for the night; he was not sure what town they were in. He reached into his bag and pulled out the special treat Hop Sing had mentioned. It was ginger bread, covered with a light layer of icing. Hop Sing rarely made him this treat, so he relished in the fact that the little cook could be so thoughtful. The ginger bread melted slowly in his mouth, the way only Hop Sing could make it. His mind wandered to the first Christmas he had received this amazing treat.

“Adam, you awake? It’s Christmas, c’mon get up!” Hoss bounced up and down on Adam’s bed excitedly. Hoss was seven years old, Adam thirteen.

“I’m up, I’m up. Your gonna make me sick all that bouncing.” Adam opened his eyes slowly, and noticed that it was still very dark outside. “Hoss, we can’t get up yet. Pa said not till the sun has risen into the sky. Look, the sky is still all stars.”

“Shucks Adam, I can’t wait no more. If we’re quiet, we could at least take a peek and see if we got any presents.”

“Pa’ll hear us. Lay down here; we have to wait a while yet. I’ll tell ya a story, your first Christmas.” Hoss settled in beside his brother, lying to face him in the bed. Adam placed a hand on his shoulder and moved in closer so he could be heard at a whisper. “Ya see, we were on the wagon train your first Christmas. We didn’t have much money to spare, but I had a few decorations that I had made with momma. I strung them up in the wagon’s opening, and everyone ooohed and aaahed over the decorations. You were about five months old, and had started rolling over. I set some of the decorations, a porcelain bell, and a dried rose that momma had kept on the far side of the wagon. I was trying to string them up so they hung from the wagon cover, but I was having trouble figuring out how. Next thing I know, you had rolled over to where the figures were, and you were eating the flower. I looked down to scold you when I noticed in the process you had rolled over the porcelain bell smashing it to bits. I heard Pa coming, so fearing trouble, I swept the bits into my hand and held them tight in my fists. Now I didn’t have a way to get that flower out of your mouth, and you just sat there chewing away. Pa saw what you were doing, and looked at me.

“Don’t you see that your brother is eating this flower? Why didn’t you take it away from him?” Pa said, glaring down at me.

“Sorry Pa, I didn’t see. I was decorating the wagon. What do you think?” I said, feeling the broken pieces of porcelain digging into my palm. I gave him my best smile, and his glare softened.

“Looks fine, son. I’ll take Hoss up front with me; you can finish up back here. You need to keep a closer eye on your brother, young man!”

I was so relieved when Pa left that I jumped out of the wagon to hide the pieces of that smashed bell. I walked towards the creek to bury them in the mud, when Judy walked up behind me.

“What cha doin’, Adam?” She saw me burying the pieces; she was eyeing me with a tight lipped grin.

“Hoss broke Ma’s bell, I have to hide it from Pa.”

“Oh, need help. I saw your wagon; it sure looks pretty. You do all that yourself?”

“Sure did, Ma had some nice decorations.”

“I never knew a man who had such a knack for making things look pretty.”

My face turned bright red, I felt like my ears were gonna burn right off. She was always saying how things I did were special, pretty. It was so embarrassing, especially when she did it around my friends. Then she always had to take it a step further.

“You think I’m pretty, Adam? You wanna decorate me?”

I backed away; she always was doing these kind of things just to embarrass me. She knew it too; she started laughing and fell on the ground. I was so mad, I forgot to bury the pieces of glass, just left them laying right there on the ground.

“Adam, I was just teasing, come back. Let’s play a game. ADAM!”

But I ignored her, and went back to the wagon. I did look back to see her no longer laughing, bent over the broken pieces of that bell. The next morning was Christmas. There were four presents in the wagon. I got a Swiss army knife; it looked a little worn, but was sharp. Pa told me it was only to be used in an emergency; he showed me how to use it safely. You got a knitted hat and gloves, and little booties for your feet. They were the same color as your eyes. I made Pa a ship out of twigs wrapped in vine. But, the fourth present was to all of us. Pa and I exchanged glances, each wondering what the other had done. Pa let me open it; inside was that same porcelain bell that you had broken the day before. I thought for sure it was a gift from momma. I didn’t find out until I had gone to Judy’s wagon that her mother had a set of china with that same pattern. Judy had given us her mother’s bell. Her mother had died when Judy was just a baby; that bell must have really meant something to her, and she gave it to us. After that day, she and I stayed good friends. She stopped that awful teasing, well, for the most part. Then, when we stopped here, she and her father moved on. I slipped that bell back into her wagon. I wonder if she’s found it.”

“That was a good story, Adam, but look. The sun’s out now; let’s go wake Pa!”

They had both clamored out of bed; Adam was the first down the stairs, leaving the waking to his brother. The first thing he noticed was this wonderful smell emanating out of the kitchen. He headed straight in, and was greeted by the smiling cook who had been with them for only a short time. He handed Adam a piece of this wonderful smelling bread, and it tasted of heaven. From then on, Adam refused nearly all other treats, always hoping for some more of that ginger bread.

He smiled, thinking of how even back then, Judy had impacted his life. Finishing off the bit of ginger bread he had pulled out, being sure to save some for later, he walked into the station house. He settled into a chair, and pulled out Shakespeare. Reading always helped to pass the time.

“Time to go, boy; get yourself ready for the stage.” The station manager smiled down at him. Adam noticed how he must have looked, hunkered down in that chair with a book of Shakespeare resting over his face. He had fallen asleep in the middle of reading, and not very gracefully to tell the truth. He smiled shyly and stood up stretching. He had been up late, and seemed to have only slept a few hours. But, having slept most of the journey so far anyway, he felt well rested. He walked back to the stage, and took his seat. A couple had joined them, headed a short distance to the next town. Their horses had taken sick; they had stumbled upon the station in the night.

“You like Shakespeare young man?” The older gentlemen, nearly his father’s age he supposed, asked with raised eyebrows.

“Yes sir.”

“Not many people around these parts seem to be interested in such literature. Where are you traveling to, boy?”

“I’m headed to Boston. I’m attending Harvard this fall, studying architecture and engineering.”

“That’s an awful long journey alone, boy; your father couldn’t come along?”

“No sir, I am fine alone. Thank you for your concern. I am meeting up with my Grandfather in Boston; I will be staying with him.”

“That sounds nice. You’ll enjoy Boston; it is very different from that of western civilization. I and my wife are here from New England also. We plan to stay here only a few more months; my wife’s family lives about fifty miles from here.”

They fell into silence. Adam opened his book and picked up where he left off. He was having trouble focusing; his mind would wander to the ranch — what he would be doing this time of day, what his father would be doing. His eyes blurred as he thought of a typical day on his families ranch.

“Little Joe, time to get up. Get ready for breakfast.” Adam shook his little brother roughly. He was late for breakfast and his father had assigned him the daunting task of waking his little brother. Little Joe wiggled away from him and snuggled deep in the covers.

“Joe, get up now. Pa’s holding breakfast for you.” He shook him again, getting aggravated that his brother could not just get up on his own. Pa would have never let Adam get away with this behavior at Joe’s age. Growing frustrated, Adam lifted the mattress with Little Joe lying on top of it and flipped it upside down on the floor. Little Joe hollered, lying under the mattress and trying to work his way out.

“Get this thing off a me. I’m gonna tell Pa!”

Adam laughed as his little brother tried hard to crawl out from under the mattress. He turned still laughing and walked back downstairs, sure now that his job of awakening Joe was fulfilled.

“He up then, son?” Ben asked, one eyebrow raised from the noises he had heard upstairs.

“He’s up. Should be down in a minute.” Adam could not have spoken more the truth. Little Joe, known for his quick temper, was down the stairs in a flash. He ran straight for his brother’s chair, and tried to topple him over in it by ramming his head into his brother’s stomach. Adam was ready, however, for the attack and stood at the last second. Joe rammed his head directly into the chair, toppling himself right along with it.

“JOSEPH! Are you alright?” Ben asked rushing to Little Joe who now sat crying on the floor. A small trickle of blood ran down the youngsters face and into his eye.

“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS? ADAM!”

Adam knelt down to his brother’s side. He had not meant for him to hurt himself to the point of bleeding. He licked his thumb and wiped away the trail of blood on Joe’s forehead.

“Look’s okay to me, Pa, barely bleeding. I’ll get a bandage and some ointment from Hop Sing.”

“You’re right — you’ll get the bandages, you’ll take care of your brother also!”

“NO, PA, I WANT YOU!” Little Joe cried, holding his hand over his forehead, and giving Adam a ferocious glare.

“You two and your shenanigans. It is too early for you to be fooling around like this. I give you the simple task of waking your brother for breakfast, and my home turns into a war zone!”

“Sorry, Pa. C’mon Joe, let’s get you cleaned up.” Adam lifted his little brother, who kicked out at him sharply?

“You kick me and I drop you. Now cut it out!” Adam said, holding his brother far enough away from him that his little legs could not reach him.

Joe stilled in his brother’s grasp, but a look of anger still stood plainly on his face. Adam carried him into the kitchen and sat him on the counter near the water pump. He wet a cloth and placed it gently over his brother’s head wound. Joe winced at first, but his brother was careful not to hurt him. He disappeared around the corner for a moment, and returned with the ointment Hop Sing had prepared upon hearing the commotion upstairs.

“Is that the stuff that stings?” Joe cried out, holding the cloth tightly over his wound.

“It only stings a little, Joe; we have to use it. You could get an infection otherwise, and that will really hurt. I’ll be careful, I promise.”

“I want Pa to do it!”

“Pa isn’t here. Now move your hand please, I promise I’ll be careful.”

Joe eyed his brother warily. He had helped many times when Joe had been hurt, but this was different. He had been hurt trying to hurt his older brother. Very slowly Joe moved his hands. Adam carefully wiped the ointment over the broken skin, noticing Joe wincing and his eyes filling with tears; he blew gently on the cut. The pain stopped instantly. Joe smiled as Adam continued blowing until he was sure the sting was gone.

“There now, how’s that feel?”

“Good, doesn’t hurt anymore. Thanks, Adam.”

“Your welcome, brother. Now how about we go have some of that breakfast. Pa’ll tan us both if we don’t get started on our chores, so we better eat up quick.”

“Pa doesn’t tan you, Adam; you’re too old!” Little Joe laughed at the thought of his oldest brother being lain over his father’s knee.

“Well, I am not one for finding out. Let’s go.” He lifted Joe off the counter and over his shoulder. Joe was bent over his back, his waist resting on Adam’s shoulder. Adam lightly smacked his brother’s bottom; Joe’s arms were flailing about, dangling behind him. “My little sack of potatoes, where shall I place it?” Adam teased, flipping his brother right side up and throwing him into the air. Joe squealed in delight, his eyes shining with love for his oldest brother.

*****

“Pa, is Adam coming home today?” Little Joe asked at the breakfast table. His father had explained to him that Adam would be going away for a long time; it seemed like it had already been a long time to Little Joe.

“Not today, son. He will be gone for a long time; you’ll be almost ten by the time we see him again.”

“TEN! THAT’S A MILLION YEARS FROM NOW! I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG. WHY’D HE WANNA GO AWAY THAT LONG FOR! Little Joe was shouting. Ten years old! He was only just six; that was an eternity from now.

“He went away to college, son; remember how he talked to you about it. He said he needed to go and learn new things. He’ll be back before you even know it, you’ll see.” Ben tried reassuring himself of the same thing. He knew it would be a long time before he stopped listening for the sounds of his son rising in the morning, the familiar footsteps heard on the stairs.

“I miss him, Pa. I wish he didn’t go.”

“I miss him too, son. Why don’t you go check on Hoss in the barn? I’m sure he could use some company.”

Little Joe walked out to where his brother was brushing down his horse. “Hey Hoss, can I help ya?” he asked climbing up on the hay so he could look into the eyes of his older brother.

“Sure Joe, there’s an extra crush right there. How you doin’ this morning, little brother?”

“I miss Adam,” Little Joe said plainly, watching for his brother’s reaction.

“Me too. Ya know, I almost went to wake him up for breakfast this morning. Forgot he wasn’t here, thought maybe he decided to sleep in.”

“You did? How could you forget he wasn’t here?”

“Don’t know, kept me up half the night. Guess your mind just gets in the routine of things.”

“Routine?”

“Yeah, you know, like doing the same thing everyday. Doing our chores is a routine.”

“Oh. Pa said I’ll be nearly ten years old by the time I see Adam again, can you believe that Hoss? I’ll be almost as old as you are now.”

“That seems like a long time, don’t it. I’ll be sixteen. Can’t imagine bein’ that old. You know, little brother, Adam will be in his twenties. Now that’s old!” Hoss laughed, though inside he wanted to cry again. He had done that most all night; his tears were now dried up. “Well, better get to that fencing; maybe later Pa’ll take us fishing.”

“YEAH!”

*****

The other passengers got off at the next stop. It was near dusk, but the driver decided to head for the next station before calling it a night. He had some time to make up. Adam settled back into his seat, glad to have the small cabin once again all to himself. He felt his eyes close, this time picturing what it would be like to meet his grandfather for the first time. He was two when he and his father left for the west; he couldn’t remember anything about the man. Though they had kept in contact; as soon as Adam was able to write, he addressed his first letter to his grandfather. His father had made him write two copies of the same note, so he would have one to keep, in case the other one didn’t make it, he said. But Adam found that note years later when he was snooping through his father’s keepsake box. It read:

Dear Grandpa Stoddard,

Pa is teachin me bout writin lettars. He told me to rite to u. I am practisen my hand ritin evry day. We are almost to Indiana, the land here is reel flat. There are some hills, but they not very big. There are lot of feelds and corn. I went to see some cows when a wheel fell off the wagen, pa got mad at me. He said those cows could a hurted me, but they didn’t move none. Pa’s hand sure hurted my bottom though.

We been drivin a long time today. Pa said he has to stop soon and fin some work, I need some new britches. My legs stick way out of these. Some man asked me if’n I was spectin a flood.

Why’d he ask that, grandpa. Why wuld I be spectin a flood, it’s not even rainin here. Pa said he was just being wise. If he was wise, then he’d have nown I wasn’t specting no flood if it weren’t rainin.

Love

Adam C.

 

*****

Ben flipped through the stack of papers in his drawer. He had a contract he and Adam had been working on together, but it seems now it was misplaced. He opened the bottom drawer, hoping for some reason it would be there, and came across the first letter Adam had written to his grandfather. He laughed as he read the letter again; it had been years since he’d seen it. Adam was always such a serious child, and that man’s comment about a flood had sent him on a torrent of questions. It took weeks for him to drop what that man had said. Adam had been on high alert for any drops of rain; finally after a few weeks of dry weather, Adam let the comment pass. Ben sighed, wishing his son were here now. He could ask a million questions, and he would be sure to answer each one. He looked towards the door, half expecting to hear footfalls on the porch. He found himself that morning walking towards his son’s door when he wasn’t up at his usual time. Last time Adam slept in it was because he had a bad fever, Ben had worried over him for days. He had his hand on the doorknob before he realized his son was not there. He said a prayer, wishing his son well on his journey, and hoped that a letter would arrive real soon.

*****

It had been a week and a half now. Adam thought he would go crazy, sitting in this small box for three more weeks. Sure, he would switch lines, and meet new people, but this was getting ridiculous. Stopping for the night, Adam decided to take a walk around the station, staying close enough in case of danger to call for help, but far enough away that he could get some much needed exercise. He walked a long time, circling the station from a distance. Finally feeling a little better and less claustrophobic, he came back to the station. He lit a small lamp, next to the rather uncomfortable green fabric chair and began a note home.

 

Dear Joe,

Hope all is well, and you are not getting into too much mischief. I saw a horse on the way here, you would have loved her. She was a real beauty. She was black, brown and white, the colors swirling together, blending into one another. I have never seen a horse its equal. She was out in the open land. I imagine anyone could come right along and claim her.

I want you to remember, Little Joe, just because I am not there with you, it does not mean I don’t love you. I think of you every minute. Remember what we talked about, everything will be fine and I will be back. As soon as I finish school, I will be back.

Love You!

Adam

 

He folded this letter neatly, and started on his next.

 

Hoss,

Hey big little brother, hope all is well. Hope you’re keeping Joe busy, so he can’t get into too much trouble. I’ll never forget that time you and he thought it would be a good idea to swing out of the hayloft like a monkey on a vine. Should have never taken you two to that circus.

Anyway, this journey is long, but I have met some very interesting people. There was a doctor who cared for animals along the way. He was speaking of starting a practice of his own, caring strictly for sick animals. Maybe you could do that some day, call yourself a doctor of animals.

I know school starts soon, and this will be Joe’s first year. Try and remember how you felt on your first day of school and be patient with him. You know how Little Joe gets about leaving Pa. I know you can handle him; you have a gentleness about you that I could never compare. I miss you, Hoss, I really do. Thank you for all those nights you and I spent just talking. I can take those with me on this journey, and it always makes me smile to think of them. Give my love to my horse, take good care of her.

Love Always,

Adam

 

Writing that letter had been easier than he thought. Thinking of Hoss always had a way of calming him. When he would lose his temper, Hoss would be right there calming him down, reassuring him that things were not as bad as they seemed. He pulled out the next piece, and shuddered immediately. What could he say to his father, without letting on how much he missed him?

 

Dearest Pa,

I finally feel I can write to you without falling apart. I tried a few days ago, but the words would not come. I didn’t want to worry you, but I will admit I was a little homesick. I have traveled far, and met many people along the way already, and there are still weeks to go. I have my books to keep me company, so the days pass pretty quickly.

I hope you are doing well. How are the contracts coming along? I know you did them for years by yourself, and I shouldn’t question your abilities now. But, I also remember those years that you were so frustrated sitting at that desk that you would cringe at the word contract. Don’t let them get you down, Pa. I will be back soon enough, and I can take on all the contracts.

I imagine Hoss and Joe are keeping you on your toes like usual. I sure miss the sound of those little feet running into my room unannounced now. But, I know there will be time for that once again. I have been thinking about my Grandfather, and how we are going to get along. I can’t wait to hear stories about his time at sea.

I will write again as soon as I can. There are only a few places around that will send out mail. Can’t wait to hear from you, I miss you. I’ll have Grandpa Stoddard write as soon as I get settled in.

Love from your oldest son,

Adam

 

He once again folded his final letter. He thought it best to write a letter to each person, rather than one to everyone. He thought they would feel a better connection that way, as he did in writing them. He turned down the lamp and closed his eyes, dreaming vividly about those that he loved at home.

*****

“NEXT STOP BOSTON!” The driver shouted over his shoulder towards Adam, who sat rather impatiently in the stage. He had been rather somber these past two weeks. Every muscle ached, his back was constantly cramped, he wanted nothing more than to just get there. The journey had been long, and Adam was glad he had four years to recover from it before he gave it another go. He closed his eyes, hoping to finish the rest of the journey in sleep.

“END OF THE LINE, SON!” The driver shouted after what seemed like only minutes. Adam peered out of the small window, and saw he was in the midst of a rather big city. People were walking by, some riding, everyone dressed fashionably. He stepped out of the stage and stretched a long bone-settling stretch as the driver placed his luggage on the sidewalk.

“Thank you, sir,” Adam said giving the man a tip as he stepped next to his luggage. He surveyed the scene, wondering how he would ever find his grandfather among all these buildings. He checked the address again, though he had it memorized. He walked into the saloon behind him and asked the bartender for directions. It wasn’t a long walk from the main road, just down a few side streets to where his grandfather lived. He approached the door of the building, and finding the apartment knocked lightly on the door.

“Hello, I am looking for Mr. Abel Stoddard; I was told this was his place of residence.” Adam said when he was greeted promptly by a middle aged woman.

“You’ve found him. Come right in. My name is Marilyn; I help out around the house twice a week, Monday and Thursday. You must be Abel’s grandson Adam.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Adam said as the woman held his cheeks in her hands, causing him to blush.

She released her grip on his cheeks, and led him into the large apartment. The room was decorated nautically; oars and anchors were mounted to the wall. Artwork displaying ships on rough seas were decorated throughout.

“Your grandfather is in the den working. He has a lot of paperwork with that company of his. Don’t worry if he is a little gruff; he tends to get that way when he is working the books.”

“Yes ma’am.” Adam felt that now familiar tightness in his throat as he thought of his father and his demeanor at home when working the contracts. That tightness turned to nervousness as he saw the man who must be his grandfather sitting at his desk leaning over a stack of papers, shuffling them about.

“Abel, I have someone for you to meet!” Marilyn said in a sing-song voice, bringing amusement to the woman’s eyes.

Abel looked up from his shuffling and was met by the eyes of a tall, slender young man with a dark tan, sharp looks, and broad shoulders. He definitely saw Ben Cartwright’s features in there, but those eyes and that smile were all his daughters.

“Adam, come in please. Sit down. How was your trip?” Abel asked, approaching quickly to shake the boy’s hand.

“The trip was fine. Thank you.” Adam studied the man. His hair was silver like his father’s; he was a little shorter, however, and he held a warmth about his face, though a sternness around his eyes. His eyes shone a dull brown, unlike those of his own. Between himself and his grandfather, he could find no likeness.

“Oh, I’m being rude; you want to get settled. Marilyn showed him his room. Once you get settled in, come join me for tea.”

“Yes sir.” Adam began to sit down as requested but stood up quickly to follow this new set of commands.

He walked a few doors down, and was surprised by the size of his room. It was rather large, held a bed and two chairs. A dresser lined each wall, the room held a feminine hue in its décor. The lamps, he could tell, were imported, France most likely. There was a vanity in the corner of the room. He set his bags down on the edge of the bed and sat wearily among them. How he longed to lay down for a real nap. Beds were rare at a station, and he spent many a nights sleeping in chairs with his feet propped up on a table. He opened his first bag, fighting the urge to sleep and placed his books on the dresser nearest the bed. He placed his shaving items on the vanity and reached for the bags containing his clothing. He settled them neatly into the first dresser, then sat down on the bed. He gave the room a once over to be sure it was tidy, then lay back to rest for just a minute. His head sunk down into the soft pillows, a warm calm feeling enveloped him. His eyes fluttered and his will to fight sleep was overcome.

“Where is that boy?” Abel said to Marilyn after his long absence. “Do you think he got lost?”

“I showed him to his room, Abel; he probably needed a minute to rest. Why don’t you go check on him?”

“He is not a child, Marilyn; he doesn’t need checking!” Abel said gruffly as he rose from his chair. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to be done!”

Marilyn hid her smile as she saw Abel head towards the room Adam would be staying.

Abel peered in as he opened the door quietly. He saw the figure of a man sleeping on the bed. He walked into the room wincing at the small squeak in his shoes. He stood next to the bed and watched the chest rise and fall. He saw Adam, as he was sixteen years ago when he and his father had lived together in this same apartment. Those dimpled cheeks and raven hair, one piece always managing to find its way across his forehead. He fought of the urge to brush back that piece of hair as memories of the young child over took him.

“Lookie Me Gampaw!” Adam said loudly as he jumped on the bed. He gave his best smile as he took a flying leap off of the bed and into his grandfather’s arms.

“Adam, how many times has your father told you not to jump on the bed? You could be hurt.” Abel looked sternly at the two-year- old, and was met with a stern look of his own. Adam was always trying to match other people’s facial expressions with his own.

“Gonna tell him Gampaw?” Adam asked matching his grandfather’s stern gaze, relaxing his features only when he was met with a smile.

“No, I wouldn’t want you to receive a necessary talk, young man. But, if I see it again, I will give you a necessary talk of my own!” Abel finished, setting the child on the floor.

Adam followed his grandfather out of his bedroom, working hard to match his strides.

“Gampaw, when Papa coming home?”

“Soon, son; he had to get some supplies from the store.”

“He get lots of supplies.”

“You’ll need them; your trip will be a long one.”

“Trip? Dat means we go bye bye in the wagon?”

“Yes, like your father said, you will be going on a long trip headed west.”

“You come too?”

“No, I stay here.”

“Why?”

“Oh no!” Abel groaned; once the why’s started it was unlikely they would stop anytime soon. “Because Grandfather has a business to run. This is your father’s dream, not mine.”

“Why?”

“Because I fulfilled my dream already, going out to sea, then starting this business, outfitting ships.”

“Why not another dream, Gampaw? Dream to go with Adam!”

“Adam, I know you don’t understand, but Grandfather’s home is here. When you are all grown up, you come visit me okay.”

“Why?”

“You are impossible my boy. Why do you always ask why?”

“I don’t know. Papa says I’m quizatis.”

“I think you mean inquisitive. He’s right about that!”

Abel picked him up under the arms and threw him high into the air. Adam yelled out, laughing all the while. He snuggled in for a Gampaw hug as he called it, and squeezed tight around the man’s neck.

“Wuv you, Gampaw!” he said, and with a giggle wiggled free from his grandfather’s grasp.

“I love you too, son, sleep well,” Abel said as he turned off the memories before they became too painful. It had hurt him deeply to watch the only family he had left ride away in that wagon. He wondered always what that little boy looked like after all these years. To him, he would always look like that two-year-old child with chubby cheeks and unruly hair. He walked out of the room quietly, and sat waiting for his grandson to awaken.

*****

Adam stretched out once again, expecting to feel the stiffness of another long night in a chair. He was surprised to realize he was in a bed. Gathering his bearings, he remembered he was supposed to meet his grandfather for tea. He saw the sun setting and realized he must have been asleep for hours. “What a way to begin my time here. I hope he is not too offended that I would make him wait all this time without even a word,” Adam chastised himself. He wanted so much to please this man. He washed his face, then stepped into the hall. He checked the den, but no one was there. He smelled food coming from the kitchen, so he headed that way next. Walking in, he found Marilyn stirring a pot of stew.

“Well hello there, sleepy; glad you could join us.” Marilyn laughed as she felt him approach.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I don’t know what happened. I was unpacking and well. Please excuse me.”

“No need for excuse; you had a long journey. We should have offered you a nap first thing. Now sit down here at the table; dinner is almost ready, and your grandfather will be in shortly.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“Enough with the ma’ams; call me Marilyn. I have worked for your grandfather for fifteen years; I am practically family. You wouldn’t call your family ma’am now would you?”

Adam smiled; he had called his stepmother Marie ma’am for an entire year, refusing to call her anything else. “Thank you then, Marilyn.”

Abel heard voices coming from the kitchen; knowing his grandson was awake, he headed in to see him.

“I see that you lack manners, young man. If I am to be kept waiting, at least a word of excuse should be at hand!” Abel said gruffly, hoping for some type of reaction that would resemble that of the little boy he knew before.

“I was just apologizing to Marilyn, sir. I had fallen asleep. Please excuse me.”

“Hmmph, what are you apologizing to her for? You did not promise to meet her for tea.”

Abel saw a flash, maybe some sort of temper, but it quickly vanished and he was met with a stony expression.

“I felt an apology to all was appropriate,” Adam stated matter-of-factly. He wasn’t sure how to take his grandfather’s reaction; he seemed quite stern.

“Is dinner ready yet?” Abel turned his attention to Marilyn now, letting the boy off the hook.

“Shortly, Abel. Take your seat.”

“It’s hard to find good help these days, Adam. You’ll find that out soon enough!”

Marilyn knew he was simply teasing, though it had taken time for her to really know so. She smiled as she turned from the stove to see the boy’s reaction. Adam returned a blank stare. He smiled as she filled his bowl with the hearty stew. “Thank you, ma’am,” he replied hoping to ease the tension by flashing her his dimpled smile.

“You, dear Abel, should take some lessons from your grandson on how to behave properly in front of a woman,” Marilyn said stepping out of the room, enjoying this small jab at her long time employer.

“Hmmph!” Abel stared hard at his grandson, keeping up his charade, for his own amusement. I’ll get a reaction yet, my boy; I know you’re in there,” he thought to himself as he again looked for signs of the young boy in the features of the man before him.

Adam settled in for the night. He decided he would write his father right away, let him know he had arrived safely.

 

Dear Pa,

I have arrived to Boston, and had little trouble finding the apartment. I am settled in now, and glad to be off of that stage. The journey was long, and I can say now that it is not one I am looking forward to again. I have met my grandfather, and though we have not had much time to become acquainted, he reminds me somewhat of you. There is a woman here, she helps out twice a week, her name is Marilyn. She has been with grandfather for fifteen years. I have not yet ventured into the city, but plan to do some sightseeing tomorrow, if grandfather does not request my company.

Tell Hoss and Joe I said hello, and I miss them. I will write them myself soon, as I become more settled in.

All my Love,

Adam

*****

 

Abel lay in bed and thought of what he would do with his grandson the next day. He did have to work through the morning, but would be home in time for lunch. He thought about taking him to the dock, showing him the ships at harbor. That reminded him — he had received a letter for him; he had meant to give it to him that evening. He pulled the letter out and quickly headed towards Adam’s room, hoping he was still awake. He knocked once then entered.

Adam tried to hide his scowl at this entrance into his room. He guarded his privacy, and this warning was not nearly as much as he expected. His grandfather laid a letter on the dresser, then turned to study the room.

“This came for you. I meant to give it to you earlier, but you were indisposed.”

“Thank you sir.”

“The room looks in good shape. I will see you in the afternoon, sleep well.”

He watched his grandfather exit his room, then turned to the letter on the dresser. The envelope was fat; he knew it came from his family. He tore it open quickly, craving the connection and lay down to read it. His eyes filled with tears at the sight of his little brother’s hand writing.

Dear Adam,

Pa told me I culd rite you a letter. You been gone a long time, I hope you be home soon. Hoss and me go fishin some, and he tryin to teach me to lasso like you were. I am getting good at it now. School starts next week. I told pa I cant go cuz he might need my help. He said I had to go. Please come home soon. It is hard to sleep sometimes when no one tickles me.

Little Joe

 

He wiped his eyes, having trouble seeing through his blurred vision he unfolded the next note.

 

Brother Adam,

We have received your letters, and I think you’re right. Maybe someday I will become a doctor of animals. School starts next week, and I can tell it is gonna be a real problem for Little Joe. We’ll get through it, I just hope the little varmint don’t cause too much trouble.

If you’re reading this, you’re in Boston now. Tell me what it’s like. What’s your grandfather like? Is the city real big?

Anyway, things sure are quiet around here with you gone, big brother. No one’s keeping me up all night talking about projects, and building things.

Write back soon!

Miss you greatly,

Hoss

 

He folded this letter and stuck it back in the envelope. He remembered all the times he would go to Hoss’ room, or Hoss would come to his on the nights they couldn’t sleep. These nights occurred mostly after they had been in trouble with their father. He again wiped his eyes, though it seemed to do no good and opened the final letter. He spent time just looking at his father’s neat scrawl. Even just the handwriting was making him weepy; he had to pull himself together.

 

Dear Adam,

You have now arrived to Boston. You have met your grandfather and seen some of the sights. I hope it is all you expected it to be and more. I cannot tell you how proud I am of you. I look at you and I no longer see a young boy, I see a man. Taking on responsibilities as you have, and following your dreams is something a man could only hope for his son. You have conquered many battles, and earned every bit of this journey. I hope it sees you well.

In saying this, remember that we are near. If you need us, just let me know and I will be right there.

Give your grandfather my regards.

With love always,

Pa

 

Adam turned his face into his pillow to stifle the sobs he felt coming on. He held the letter tightly in his hands as he cried himself to sleep.

 

**********

 

“Well, good morning, I didn’t expect to see you up for hours yet.” Abel was stunned to see his grandson already sitting at the breakfast table sipping coffee, dawn had only just broken.

“Good morning. Would you like some coffee?” Adam said standing to get a cup for his grandfather.

“Thank you. Any plans for the day?” Abel sipped from the cup that Adam had poured, and eyed him closely. It was still hard to believe that this young man was the same child that had left him years ago.

“I thought I might take some time to explore, that is, if you didn’t have any other plans for me.”

“I have to work; the business doesn’t run itself. I thought after lunch, you and I could go down to the harbor.”

“Sounds good. I was going to go check out the college. See about getting my books. Look around some.”

“Well, have a good time. Be home a little after noon.”

“Yes sir.”

Adam watched as his grandfather left the room. He gathered his things and quickly left the apartment. He decided to get an early start himself, and headed out into the city. He walked past the tall buildings, admiring their structure. He saw a museum he would like to explore but it would not be open for a few hours yet. In fact, nothing was open yet. He couldn’t say he was surprised; people here didn’t have to get up with the cows. He was used to rising early to start the morning chores. He walked further down the main street, and turned left at the end of the lane. The college was in view. It looked abandoned at this hour. He stopped in front of the main building and noticed the doors were open. Walking inside, he was met with a towering vaulted ceiling in the lobby. He sat in the brown leather chair at the entrance and marveled at the beauty which surrounded him.

After some time, a few students made their appearance.

“Excuse me,” he said to the first student to pass him by. “I’m looking for someone; I was hoping you could help. Her name is Judy Wright; she’s studying journalism.”

“I know Judy; she lives in Freemont Hall. You can’t go there, though; it’s an all girls dorm. My name is Jimmy, by the way. You new here?”

“Just arrived; I’m from the Nevada Territory. My father owns a ranch, the Ponderosa.”

“A real cowboy then. Wait till I tell the boys about this. A cowboy coming to Harvard.”

Adam felt his temper rise; he did not like to be the butt of a joke. Jimmy must have felt his reproach; he took a step back. “I didn’t mean any disrespect; we just don’t get many of your folk around here. Hey, let me make it up to you. Let’s go have breakfast. After that, I’ll show you Freemont; she should be coming out soon. She works in the flower shop on Main Street; her shift starts at ten.”

Adam backed down a bit. He didn’t realize his fists were clenched until he unwound them leaving an indent of bedded nails in his palm. “Sure, I am a little hungry.”

“When did you arrive here?” Jimmy asked glad that this young man was no longer angry with him. He’d have to remember to be careful with his words around this one.

“Just yesterday, took a full month on the stage to get here.”

“A MONTH! I can’t stand to ride longer than a few hours on one of those. You must be exhausted.”

“I’m fine, just glad to be on solid ground.”

“Here’s the place. Finest breakfast in town.”

The boys entered the small restaurant. They sat at a table next to the window, and Adam studied the small menu.

“I’ll take two eggs and a side of hash, ma’am. Thank you.” Adam said to the waitress taking their order.”

“Now that’s a real southern breakfast, my friend. I’ll have the pancakes and some coffee.”

The waitress disappeared and returned quickly, pouring them each a cup of coffee. Adam watched as Jimmy put in four lumps of sugar and a load of crème.

“That’s not really coffee now, is it? A little strong for you?”

“No, just the way I like it. You tried it before?”

“Nope, always had mine black.”

“Well, try it. See what you think.”

Adam eyed him carefully, then shrugging his shoulders he added a lump of sugar and a touch of crème. He stirred it carefully, then took a sip.

“Oh, that’s awful! How do you drink it like that?” Adam said covering his mouth, his eyes closed tight.

Jimmy laughed; he hadn’t expected that reaction at all. Their food arrived as Adam pushed the cup away from him. They ate for a while in silence, enjoying the taste of their food.

“So, what do you have for breakfast normally? Back home, I mean.” Jimmy asked, expecting him to say something unusual.

“About the same, Hop Sing makes us eggs, bacon, ham. Sometimes flapjacks.”

“Hop Sing?”

“He’s our cook, keeps the place running while were out working the ranch.”

“You have a cook? Didn’t know they had that in the west. I always pictured it as barren land with a few shacks around, mostly saloons.”

“Well, there are some shacks around, as well as saloons, but there are also quite wealthy people. There are hotels, shops, there’s talk of a theatre coming in.”

“Did you carry a gun?” Jimmy said his eyes opening wide to show his excitement.

“Yes.”

“Did you ever shoot anyone?”

“You sound like that would be a good thing.”

“Well, I never met anyone who’s shot a man before. You live there your whole life then?”

“No, I was born here in Boston. My Pa and I went west with a wagon train when I was just two. I came back here for college; I’m staying with my grandfather down near the bay.”

“What’s his name? Maybe I know him.”

“Abel Stoddard. He runs an outfitting business for the local shipping unit.”

“I’ve heard of him; he used to attend a few of the social’s my parents would hold. There’s one this weekend. You should come, bring your grandfather along.”

“Thank you, I’ll ask him. You ready to go?”

“Oh, yes. I forgot; you wanted to see Judy. How’d you know her then?”

“Met her on the wagon train, with my Pa. I was about seven I believe.”

“Can I say just one thing?” Jimmy said giving a slightly mocking smile.

“What’s that?”

“Do you always call him Pa?”

“Yes. What’s wrong with Pa?”

“Nothing, it’s just around here, we call him father, or sir. I’ve never heard anyone refer to their father as Pa.”

Adam studied his feet as he walked towards the counter. He knew Jimmy was only trying to help him, but he couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed. Maybe Pa did sound a little childish. He fished in his pocket for some money; he didn’t have much to spare, and lectured himself silently about his fruitless spending.

“No, No, I got it. You’re a guest here; first meal is on me,” Jimmy said, throwing his new friend a handsome smile.

“That’s not necessary, I can…”

Jimmy interrupted as he left a large tip. “Gonna have to work on your manners some.” He grabbed Adam’s shoulder and led him out the door.

“This is where she works; she should be in there. It’s a little past ten. You have plans for later? Me and the boys go the pub in the evenings; you’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, I’m not sure I can make it. If not, I’ll see you around.”

“Alright, see you around.”

Adam walked into the shop, jumping at the bell that rang signaling his entrance. He was very nervous; it had been a long time. He put his hands in his pockets and waited. She came around the corner, and he had to do a double take. This was not the awkward teenager he had fallen in love with. This was a beautiful young woman. Her hair was long, hanging past her shoulders, her face was full and shining. She was beautiful when she left; now she was simply gorgeous. She stopped in her tracks, really seeing him for the first time. Her mouth opened to speak, but no words could be heard. They stood this way until a customer entered behind him, bumping him with the door. He stumbled forward, and muttered an apology, but did not take his eyes off her.

“Adam?” Judy finally managed to squeak out. “What……. How……… when?” I…didn’t know you were coming!” she said finally gathering herself enough to speak.

“I got here yesterday, starting school in the fall. I wanted to surprise you,” Adam said quietly, moving a step towards her. He was greeted then with a body-crushing hug. He felt himself wrap his arms around her waist and lift her high into the air. She kissed the top of his head, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“I missed you so much!” she said soaking up his warmth, his touch. He kissed her then, passionately, nearly feverishly. She returned the gesture, but then suddenly pulled back, taking him in once again.

“You’ve changed, you’re taller. You finally grew into those gangly arms.” she joked, enjoying the blush that rose into those handsome cheeks. “We must see the town. My aunt is in the back; she’ll let me have the day off. I’ll go let her know you’re here; she’ll love to meet you. Stay right here, don’t move!” She ran towards the back, bumping into the customer on the way out. She returned in seconds, pushing an older woman in front of her. “Aunt Beverly, this is my Adam, the one I’ve told you so much about.”

“Yes, yes dear. Nice to meet you, Adam. I have heard quiet a lot about you. This is a surprise, isn’t it. Are you staying long?” Beverly asked. Adam thought he noticed a certain unwelcoming tone in her voice.

“I’m attending school here, ma’am. Yes, I will be here for a while.”

“Welcome. I hope to have more time to get to know you. Judy, you may have the day off, but I will expect you to make it up then Saturday.”

“Yes ma’am. Thank you! Adam, let’s go, I have so much to show you!”

*****

Abel paced back in forth in the front room. The boy was nearly an hour late. What a fine welcome this was. He grew angrier by the minute. How irresponsible! You don’t say you’ll meet someone and then not show up. He should have better manners than these. He had it in his mind to give him a good thrashing, teach the boy just who is in charge here. He knew he could never do it; even when he was young Abel had a hard time disciplining the boy. He remembered the last time he had given the boy a good hard spanking.

“Where are ya now, boy? I don’t have time for games.” Abel walked through the apartment checking each room for his wayward two-year-old grandson. He was met with silence in each room. He walked back to the front room to check there again; he noticed the front door slightly ajar. He opened it wide and peered down the hallway. “ADAM!” He called loudly, praying for a response. He walked out of the apartment and down the hallway towards the front exit. He made it out of the building and still no sign of his grandson. He stood on the sidewalk looking both ways, unsure of which way to turn.

“Have you seen a small boy, two years old, about this high, black hair?” he asked a woman passing by.

She stopped for a moment, then glanced behind her. “There was a child playing near the street just a little ways back. Is he supposed to be with you?”

“That way, did you say?” Abel asked as he hurried off in the direction the lady had pointed. He saw him not to far down the walk, playing in a puddle on the edge of the street. His heart in his throat, he cautiously approached the boy, not wanting to startle him, causing him to fall into the street.

“Adam.” He said it as a statement rather than an inquest. He was met by those golden eyes, a soft smile playing around them. He went back to splashing in the puddle with the small stick he had found. Abel picked him up off of the sidewalk and headed back towards the house. The fear, concern and horror of the situation fading quickly into anger. He carried the boy up the stairs back to the apartment and set him roughly into the chair.

“Just what do you think you were doing leaving this house by yourself?” Abel shouted down towards the small boy.

“I was playing in the water, Gampaw.” Adam said quietly, it was not often that his grandfather raised his voice.

“You know better than to leave this house alone!”

“I ask you, you no listen. I wanna go outside!” Adam said back matching his grandfather’s tone.

“Don’t you shout at me; you scared me near to death. If I did not answer you, then I did not hear you. You should have asked again. There is no excuse for your behavior; I remember hearing your father explain to you the dangers of playing outside alone. Now come over here!”

Abel was so angry his hands were shaking. His grandson could have been kidnapped, hurt, or worse of all, killed.

Adam made no move towards him, but crossed his arms in defiance and jutted out his chin. He was again mimicking his grandfather’s actions. Usually this gained him a smile; today, it only made things worse. His grandfather lifted him out of the chair and laid him over his lap. He gave his bottom five sharp smacks, then stood and carried him howling to his room.

Abel closed the door and stood in the hallway, listening to those mournful cries. His hand burned from the intensity with which he delivered the smacks, and was sure he had hit him too hard. He sat down in front of the door and waited for the cries to lessen. He couldn’t stand that sound. His grandson was always such a good-natured child; he hardly ever even had to redirect him. The child rarely cried, and if he did, it was out of pain or sickness, never any type of temper tantrum. Finally hearing the cries become quiet sniffles, he opened the door to the room. He saw Adam lying on his stomach, his face buried into the pillows, his breaths coming evenly. The child had cried himself to sleep.

He walked over carefully and sat on the edge of the bed, careful not to disturb him. Adam, being a light sleeper, woke up instantly. He wiggled over to his grandfather who had his back to him, and tapped him gently on the shoulder. Abel turned to meet those eyes, that were now red rimmed and puffy.

“I’s reawwy sowwy, Gampaw.” Adam said when his grandfather turned to look at him. “No be sad, I be good now.”

Abel pulled the child onto his lap, and ran his hand through his hair. Adam snuggled down on his lap and closed his eyes once again.

“Grandfather is sorry too, son. I shouldn’t have been so harsh with you. You are a good boy.” Abel stroked the boys back, rubbing little circles as he had seen Ben do when the boys was sick or hurt. “Grandfather loves you.”

Adam sat up quickly, and met his grandfather’s eyes. “I loves you too. I no mean make you sad. See, I give kiss!” Adam said and planted a kiss directly on his grandfather’s lips. This had never been done before, though he was allowed a hug now and again, Adam was not one to display open emotions.

“Why, thank you, sport. I can guarantee you I am not sad anymore.” He smiled as Adam again curled up in his lap and went to sleep.

It was nearly five now, and still no sign of Adam. Abel had gone from angry to guilty, to worried, and was now back to angry. He checked the clock once again as he heard footfalls coming quickly towards the door. The knob turned and Adam hurried in. He was met instantly by his grandfather, who looked much more menacing now that he was angry. “I’m so sorry, I met an old friend, lost track of time. I…”

“SORRY, YOU TELL ME YOU’RE SORRY! I THOUGHT MAYBE YOU WERE HURT, DEAD, GOD KNOWS WHAT. YOU DON’T TELL SOMEONE YOU WILL MEET THEM AND THEN NOT SHOW UP! WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH THAT FOOL HEAD OF YOURS?”

This came out as a demand rather than a statement. Adam stepped back, hitting his back against the door. His grandfather had seemed to grow a few inches, and his face held an angry hue.

“I….I….don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

“DAMN RIGHT IT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN! You think you’re grown, is that it? You don’t have to answer to anyone! Well, I am here to tell you different. As long as you live under this roof, you will follow my rules. Until you prove yourself to be more responsible, you will stay in this house. You will come with me to work tomorrow, and are only allowed out with my direct permission. IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?” Abel felt himself shaking once again. He wanted to shake the boy, let him now how scared he had been.

“Yes sir, I understand.”

“GOOD! Now go to your room!” Abel pointed down the hallway towards the room that had once belonged to his daughter. He watched as Adam turned towards the room and made his quick escape.

Adam got into his room and closed the door. He stood still leaning against it, holding him up. He thought his father’s lectures were tough; this was near the top on his list of getting in trouble. His knees were weak, and he was sweating. He was glad to just get away. He made his way over to the bed and sat down. He felt restless now, knowing he would be stuck in this house for days and right after he had met Judy. He laid back, his hands behind his head and slipped away remembering how it felt to once again be held by his first love.

*****

“Pa, we got a letter from Adam. He must have arrived. Can we open it now?”

“Here, let me have it. I’ll read through it first, just in case your brother wanted some privacy.”

Ben read the short letter, then read it aloud to his sons. Little Joe bounced up and down, hearing that his brother had made it to his destination. They were disappointed that he hadn’t written each of them, but he had said he would.

“That means he’s with his grandpa now, don’t it.” Hoss asked, wondering what the man looked like.

“Yep. I hope your grandfather is treating him well. Abel loved him; I know Adam is in good hands.”

“Wish I had a grandpa; then I could go visit him too. He’d probably give me some presents like Adam’s grandpa did.”

“I’m sorry, son; both of your grandfather’s are in heaven. But, I bet Adam will send you some presents, near Christmas.”

“CHRISTMAS! THAT’S FOREVER FROM NOW! SCHOOL ONLY STARTS NEXT WEEK!” Little Joe shouted. Why did adults talk like things were never that far away? Maybe time travels differently for them.

*****

A week had passed and Adam was still not granted permission to leave his grandfather’s sight. He was long past irritated. He was no longer a child who was being grounded for a week. He was a man now, should be able to make his own decisions. He knew he had hurt his grandfather, and that was why he had put up with this charade for so long now. He decided he would have a talk with him this evening. He filed the last of the messy paperwork in the drawer, and surveyed the room. His grandfather had left to run some errands, and Adam took the opportunity to straighten up this mess he called an office. The desk was now cleared of papers, with work to be completed neatly sorted and stored away. There was an ink blot and pen on the desk, next to a pad of paper for easy access. He smiled and began working the numbers on a new deal his grandfather was considering.

“WHAT IS THIS? WHERE ARE MY THINGS!” Abel stormed into the office noticing everything put away.

“They are in files, put away. I don’t know how you could work in here, everything out of order. Look, I’ll show you how it’s arranged.”

“I want it all put back! I didn’t want it changed in the first place!” Abel spit back. He noticed a change come over his grandson’s features. His eyes darkened and his muscles stiffened. He was met with a glare, and Adam stood. Abel held back a smile, as he saw the little boy who, when he felt he was right, would not back down from any situation.

“I will be glad to show you the new system. If you’d take a minute to get used to the idea, you might find it helpful!” Adam was holding in his temper best he could. Really, all he wanted to do was throw something. “All you’ve done is stand over my shoulder this week and complain. If I can’t do anything right, then why don’t you let me on my way?”

“LET YOU ON YOUR WAY! How do I know you’ll return, after that little disappearing act you pulled last week!”

“I didn’t disappear; I met an old friend. I apologized for that. Am I going to spend the next four years here paying for that mistake?”

“IF THAT’S HOW I SEE FIT!”

“NOW WAIT A MINUTE, YOU CAN’T JUST…”

“Hold it, you lower your tone, boy.” Abel was ecstatic. He’d been trying to get a rise out of the boy all week; he couldn’t stand all the polite manners. He wanted Adam to feel at home, not have to put on a show. He wanted someone to banter with, be comfortable around. This was the Adam he was hoping for.

“I don’t know what you want from me. I have done everything you’ve asked and more. How long are you planning on keeping me locked up?”

“Locked up? That’s a little harsh now isn’t it?”

“NO!”

“BOY! I do not appreciate your raising your voice to me, I have warned you about it once already. I recommend you do not let it happen again. Now, I understand you feel I have been a little unfair. Well, I have! I wanted to see how long you would put up with it. You always were a stubborn little thing.”

“You wanted to see how long I would put up with it!” Adam said, his voice shaking as he tried to keep his voice low. “Why would you do that?”

“I got the results I was seeking.” Abel smiled and turned away. “You’re free to go.”

Feeling himself growing angrier by the second, Adam stormed out of the shop. He headed towards the flower shop, and prayed Judy was working today. He had sent word to her of his trouble, but he couldn’t be sure his word was delivered. He walked up to the door and pulled hard. It was locked. He realized it was Sunday; he wouldn’t be able to see her until tomorrow. He lightly kicked the door and headed towards the college. He would find Freemont Hall if it was the last thing he did.

*****

The sign read Freemont Hall, All Girls Dormitory. He saw a few girls sitting outside in front of the doors, none of them being Judy.

“Excuse me. I was wondering if Judy Wright lived here?” he questioned the girl with honey colored curly hair.

“She does. Who’s asking?” The girl smiled, letting Adam know she was interested.

“I’m Adam Cartwright. I was hoping maybe one of you could tell her that I’m here.”

“Adam Cartwright, huh. You new around here?”

“Yes, I arrived last week.”

“You wouldn’t happen to be that cowboy from the west, now would you?” she asked, batting her eyes at him.

“My father owns a ranch in Nevada Territory. Now, what about getting Judy?”

“I’ll get her, but only if you promise me one thing.”

“What’s that?” Adam eyed her suspiciously, and crossed his arms.

“You’ll meet me for lunch tomorrow, here at the school. Don’t worry, just as friends.” She emphasized the words friends, hinting at a hidden meaning.

“Yeah, okay. Just as friends.” He smiled back, hoping she would just go get Judy. She did as he hoped, and disappeared into the building.

“Adam! I was wondering if you were ever gonna come see me again,” Judy said pulling him instantly into a hug.

“I’ve been trying all week. That man wouldn’t let me out of his sight. We had it out today; I’m finally off the hook.”

“I didn’t mean to cause you so much trouble. Isn’t it funny that the same thing that caused me to get sent away in the first place happened again the first time we meet.”

“I didn’t find it funny. I thought I was going to go crazy. I had been confined to the Ponderosa before, but there I could ride for a whole day, and never leave the property. Here, I was stuck in that apartment.”

“Oh Adam, we’ll be careful from now on. How long can you stay out today?”

“I’m expected home for supper each night, that was made clear. So only about an hour or so. But, I was hoping tomorrow you could meet me for lunch. That girl that went to get you made me promise to meet her just as friends. I thought since it was just a friendly meeting, she wouldn’t mind you coming along.”

“Oh, I’m sure she’ll mind. Yes, I would love to have lunch with you. I was supposed to lunch with Robert. Do you mind if he comes along as well?”

Adam cleared his throat. He had forgotten about Robert. He tried to act nonchalant when he gave her the okay to invite him along. “Sure, I don’t mind. Hey, let’s walk down towards the main building; I’d like you to show me where my first class is.”

They walked along hand in hand, reminiscing about things they had done together as children. Arriving at the building, Adam noticed Jimmy sitting under a tree near by. “Jimmy, how are you?”

“Adam, I thought you decided to run on home. What happened to you?” Jimmy laughed, smiling up at Judy.

“Decided to lay low for a while. Sorry I missed that social. Did it go well?”

“Same old boring crowd; we need some young people around to liven things up. How are you, Judy?”

“Fine. How come I wasn’t invited to this social?”

“You were. Your aunt didn’t tell you?”

“No. She was invited also?” Judy asked, giving him a questioning glance.

“She’s always invited. I wondered why you never came.” Jimmy said, realizing she hadn’t known she was welcome. “I’m sorry; from now on, I will invite you personally.”

“Please do, and I promise you I will be at the next one.”

“Hey Jimmy, you got plans for tomorrow, lunch?” asked Adam.

“Nope, sure don’t. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I have this lunch date; I am inviting some friends along. You wanna come?”

“I’ll come. Why don’t you come by tonight? I can introduce you to the others. They’ve been wanting to meet you ever since I told them you were a real live cowboy.” Jimmy backed away as Adam took a playful swing at him.

“I can’t tonight, I already have plans. Maybe tomorrow. I’ll let you know at lunch.”

“Alright, see you then.”

Adam and Judy headed back towards her dorm. The time had gone more quickly than either had wanted, but they paid close attention. Adam definitely did not want to miss dinner, especially so soon after being released. “I’ll see you tomorrow then; I’ll pick you up here.”

“Okay. You sure you don’t have just a few more minutes?” Judy pouted and scooted up close to him.

“You enjoy my being in trouble, don’t you?” Adam smiled as he grabbed her waist pulling her to him. He forgot about the crowd sitting outside of the building as he pulled her into a kiss. They were at it for a while, enjoying the taste of one another when Adam felt a third hand touch his shoulder. He pulled away from Judy and was met by the eyes of the girl from earlier. She smiled, a hungry look in her eyes and whispered in his ear, “Don’t forget lunch tomorrow, cowboy.” Then she sauntered away, leaving both Adam and Judy in her wake.

*****

“Glad to see you made it here on time, boy!” Abel bellowed from his place at the table. “And with only seconds to spare.”

“Hello sir. I was just out for a walk, met up with Judy.”

“Uh, huh. Well, dig in, your food will get cold.”

“Yes sir.” Adam smiled and took a sip of the soup. When Marilyn wasn’t around, his dinners consisted of soup and sandwich. This seemed to be the only thing his grandfather knew how to make.

“You ready for classes to start then?” Abel asked in between bites.

“Yes. I still haven’t gotten my books; thought I would tomorrow. I have a week before classes begin.”

“Then I would say you don’t need your books for another week. Why so soon?”

“I’d like to read ahead a little.”

“Huh, I bet you’ll be singing a different tune once you’re buried under a stack of homework!”

“I won’t mind; I’m here to learn.”

Abel raised his eyebrows, that comment seemed a little snippy. Maybe the boy was coming around after all.

“What are your plans for tomorrow then?”

“Lunch with friends, take a look around. I haven’t seen much since I’ve been here. There was a museum I’d like to visit.”

“I see. What about showing me how this new system works at the shop then?”

“Oh, right. I’ll do that; I can look around after lunch.”

They finished their meal, and sat in the front room. Abel read the newspaper while Adam curled up with a book.

“ADAM!” Abel hollered, enjoying seeing the boy jump.

“Sir?”

“I wanted to talk to you about this sir business.” Adam didn’t answer, but kept his eyes on his grandfather. “I don’t like being called sir; we are not aboard a ship. Why don’t you call me something more informal, more fitting.”

Adam studied his grandfather. How did this come up? He was annoyed at being interrupted in his reading. “How about Gramps?” he muttered, a smile playing about his lips.

“What was that?” Abel asked, straining to hear.

“I said, could you turn up the lamp?” Adam said laughing to himself; he often played this game with his father. He’d only been caught a few times.

“Oh, yes.” Abel turned up the lamps around the room. “Now, before you left to go west with your father, you called me Gampaw.”

“Gampaw?” Adam asked raising his eyebrows. Now way would he call him that.

“Yes.”

“Well, how about I call you Mr. Stoddard?”

“No, that won’t do. We’re not in business together.”

“Well, Grandfather then?”

“Grandfather? How about Grandpa?”

“Well, we’ll see,” Adam said closing the subject and going back to his books.

Abel stared after him, watching those eyes study the page of the small book in his hands. He smiled to himself; they both would become more comfortable soon enough.

*****

Adam spent the entire morning with his grandfather, trying to show him how to stay organized. His mood was sour as the two men clashed several times throughout the morning. He headed to the flower shop to collect Judy, and he saw her already inside. Jimmy stood next to her, and she stood facing another fellow. He was tall and lean. Adam scowled at the way he stood so close to her, her hands touching his arm as she spoke. He opened the door, the bell signaling his entrance and he walked up next to her.

“Adam, there you are. We’re all ready to go. Oh, let me introduce you. Adam Cartwright, this is Robert Scott. He is studying law, going to make a fine lawyer some day.”

“Nice to meet you, Adam. Are you enjoying your time here?”

“I hope so; I’ll be here a while.” Adam said offhandedly, his mood reflecting in his tone of voice.

“Well, friend, I sure am hungry. What is the name of this girl we have to meet?” Jimmy asked, sensing Adam was not in the mood for conversation at this time.

“I don’t know. She never got around to telling me,” he responded and headed out the door.

They walked to the college, and stepped into the small café that served the student’s nearby. Adam was greeted shrilly by the girl with the honey-colored hair.

“Adam, I thought you went back on your word. Who are these people?” she asked, gripping his arm with her left hand gently.

“This is Judy, Jimmy, and Robert. They will be joining us,” he said looking at the hand that was now caressing his arm.

“Oh, I wasn’t aware that we would have company.” Disappointment shone clear on the girls face.

They sat down at a table in the center of the café. Their orders were taken, and the girl sat between Adam and Judy. Judy smiled at the girl and finally spoke to her. “I’m sorry, I seem to have forgotten your name.”

“It’s Amanda. We live in the same dorm, but I don’t remember seeing you around much. I did, however, know who you were; that’s how I knew where to look.”

“Oh, I see. I really don’t have much time to socialize; whenever I’m not studying, I have to work.”

“You work and go to school?” Amanda looked shocked, and then put her nose in the air. “My father owns the Devonshire boating system. When I’m not at school, I simply go sailing. We have a rather lavish boat; it has three rooms on board. Maybe you would like to join me, Adam.”

“No thank you!” He said, not even bothering to look at her.

“Well, I never. Maybe you should be more aware of the company you keep, Judy Wright; maybe you would be invited out more often.” Amanda stood up, quickly leaving the restaurant before the food had even arrived.

“You, sir, are a brave man. If I had spoken like that to a lady, I would be shaking in my shoes. Women here are never addressed in that manner,” Jimmy said reaching across to give his friend a light shove.

“Well, now she’ll have more time to simply go sailing!” Adam said in a serious tone before his face changed to a dimpled smile.

“You’re being awfully quiet, Robert. Why don’t you tell Adam about your travels north? I am sure he’d be interested.” Judy said, concerned that her friend was nervous around new company.

“I’m sorry, Judy; I really must be going. I just remembered having a prior engagement. Please excuse me,” Robert said standing, and kissing Judy’s cheek lightly to excuse himself.

“Robert, I…” Judy stopped as the door closed behind him. “Well, that was strange.”

The food arrived quickly, with two now extra plates.

“Go ahead and leave them; I’m hungry enough to eat them both. Though I am sure Adam will help!” Jimmy said, eyeing the steaks.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Adam returned, finally starting to relax. They finished their meals slowly, their conversation flowing easily. From those passing, by you would think they had all known each other for years.

“Well, now that that’s finished, what do you say we go to the pier?” Jimmy asked, finishing off his fourth glass of water.

“Yes, that sounds nice, Adam have you been there yet?” Judy asked standing and pushing in her chair.

“No, I haven’t been there yet; sounds good to me.” Adam reached for his check, but noticed it missing. He saw Jimmy pay for all five meals and walk out the door.

“Adam, you’ll love the pier. The beach is beautiful. The water is a mite chilly, however,” Jimmy said walking slowly to let them catch up. “Oh, and the view of the ladies is always quite nice also!”

“JIMMY! Now who is being rude?” Judy asked, playfully smacking him on the arm.

“I’d like to see that, the view I mean,” Adam said joining in the fun. The fresh air was really helping his mood, and around these two, who could hold a sour note.

“RACE YA!” Judy said, taking off, leaving the two boys gawking after her.

Adam stopped when he reached the shoreline. He stared at the sight before him; the ocean seemed so calm today. He had seen the ocean a few times along his journey, and when he went with his father to California on business, but it had been a while. He felt his two friends step up beside him.

“So, what do you think?” Jimmy asked stepping forward to let the water rush over his toes.

“I think you look like you need a swim!” Adam said, pushing him forward with the strength he would use to lift the wagon at home to replace a bad wheel. Jimmy flew forward, falling into the water face first. He came up sputtering, a look of surprise pasted all over his face.

“Why you….I’ll get you for that!” Jimmy said, making his way towards Adam.

Adam stepped back and removed his shoes and shirt. Jimmy came at him quickly; he sidestepped and watched his friend fall in the sand. Judy helped him up and whispered something in his ear. They both turned with a wide smile to Adam. Both attacked him at the same time, pushing him towards the water. He let them push him easy enough, straining enough to act as if he were putting up a struggle. His feet touched the water, and it felt like ice. He decided better of taking a swim, and struggled harder against the two. Jimmy slipped, and once again landed on his bottom in the water. This left Adam free to go after Judy.

“Don’t do it, Adam. I’m telling you, you’ll regret it,” she squealed as he came near her.

“Oh, I don’t think I’ll be the one regretting anything.” He surged forward and grabbed her around the waist, lifting her in the air. He threw her softly backwards into the water. She landed with a splash, and Adam watched laughing as she came out of the water, her hair covering her face. Jimmy was on him again, trying to wrestle him into the water, and Adam easily slipped free. He had fought enough with his brothers and friends back home that he was an expert at getting free. He lifted Jimmy under the arms and threw him next to Judy. His two friends stared at him, an unfriendly look in their eyes. He decided he better join them, lest he now have two enemies. He walked into the freezing water, and let them dunk him under. He came up smiling, and swam out a little further. They all stayed in the water, splashing, wrestling and dunking one another. On-lookers stopped to watch the fun, and shook their heads at the business in front of them. It was very improper for a lady to be swimming, not properly dressed, especially in this manner with two men. Ignoring their audience, they enjoyed themselves until late into the evening.

Shivering, they all left the water and headed to the road. Jimmy’s house was near by, so they headed there to dry off. The air now held a chill, and they had a long walk back to Adam and Judy’s apartments. They stopped in front of a large brick home that must have been three stories high.

“This is your apartment then?” Adam asked standing at the gate studying the details in the structure.

“This is my home. Please, come in,” Jimmy said opening the gate and ushering them towards the door.

Upon entering, Jimmy led them upstairs. The house was amazing. Expensive art stood on the walls, the furniture looked untouched. There was an elegance in the way each room was furnished, each seeming to have its own theme.

“This is beautiful, Jimmy. I never knew your family was so prestigious,” Judy said, running her hand along the wall paper leading up the stairs.

They entered what must be Jimmy’s room; it was as large as Judy’s entire ranch house.

“Here Adam, this should fit okay. Judy, let me get some clothes from my sister’s room. They might be a little big on you, though.” Jimmy handed Adam a red button up shirt and black pants. He grabbed Judy’s hand and led her down the hall. Adam heard the door open behind him, he was only half dressed, just buttoning his pants. Thinking it was Jimmy returning, he turned to greet him.

“Jimmy, I was wondering when…” The man stopped speaking as the stranger turned to face him. “You’re not Jimmy.” The man smiled at Adam, whose eyes were opened wide, embarrassed at his state of undress in front of this stranger.

“Jimmy went to get some clothes for a friend of ours; we were swimming. I’m sorry.” Adam said quickly turning his back and putting on his shirt, fumbling with the buttons.

“I see. Swimming at the pier, I take it. Isn’t that water awful cold?” the man asked, stepping forward to straighten Adam’s collar.

Adam smiled back; this gesture reminded him of his own father. “Oh, I haven’t introduced myself, excuse me. My name is…”

“Hi, father, I see you met Adam,” Jimmy interrupted, stepping up next to his father.

“Yes, I thought he was you for a minute. You had a good time today, son?”

“Sure, just decided to go for a little swim. Well, no, I take that back; Adam decided I would go for a little swim.” Jimmy smiled at his friend.

“I see. Well, it looks like he joined you. I was in the middle of introducing myself. As I was saying my name is Virgil King, it’s nice to meet you……”

“Adam, Adam Cartwright. Nice to meet you, sir.”

Judy entered the room, straightening her clothes in the process.

“Jimmy, these clothes fit quite……………excuse me,” Judy said realizing that someone new was in the room.

“Aaahh there’s more to this story, boys. Now who would this be? You look very nice in Valerie’s clothes, my dear.”

“Thank you, sir. My name is Judy Wright. Please excuse my rude manner of entering.”

“No need for excuse; I was once young. You three staying for dinner?”

“Oh, I can’t sir. My grandfather requires me home. Thank you for the invitation; maybe another night,” Adam said staring at Judy, who really filled this clothing out nicely.

“I would love to stay. Thank you, Mister… I’m sorry, I never learned Jimmy’s last name.” Judy smiled warmly at Jimmy.

“King, but you’re welcome to call me Virgil. Adam, I would be pleased if you could stay. Perhaps you could ask your grandfather’s permission.”

“Yeah, I could drive you; our buggy’s outside. We have plenty of time to get there and back.”

“Well, okay. Let’s see what he says.” Adam smiled; this felt like home. He thought he and Mr. King would get along nicely and he was interested to get to know him better.

*****

“Sir, this is Jimmy, a friend I met down at the college. He and his family have invited me to dinner; I was hoping to accept the invitation.” Adam stood facing Abel whose attention was focused on a stack of papers on his desk.

Abel looked up sharply, giving Adam and Jimmy a hard stare. Then his eyes met that of a young woman. Adam noticed his eyes wander to Judy, who had stayed in the shadows.

“And this is Judy, that friend I was telling you about.”

“I see. And will she be joining you for dinner also?”

“She will, sir.”

“Adam, we talked about this!”

“I know, sir; I just thought maybe you wouldn’t mind dinner out one night.”

“It’s not about the dinner, Adam; it’s this sir business.”

“I can go to dinner then?”

“Yes, but only on one condition. You stop referring to me as sir!”

“Yes sir, I mean, grandfather. Let’s go,” Adam said, making his retreat before his grandfather changed his mind.

*****

“I remember your grandfather well, Adam. I believe I was six years old, and I had snuck downstairs to take a peek at my parents’ guests. Your grandfather caught me peeking and announced to the whole room that I was there. Then he laughed and lifted me in the air. He was with a woman at the time, but I don’t remember her name. I think it was Mary, or Margaret, something of the sort.”

“Marilyn?”

“Yes, that’s it. He carried me over to my father and told him not to be too hard on me, but that he should maybe consider a lock for my room,” Jimmy laughed.

“Marilyn is his helper; she comes in twice a week. Strange she would accompany him to a social,” Adam said to himself, then pinched Judy.

“OUCH! WHAT WAS THAT FOR?”

He didn’t answer, but gave her a sweet smile.

“Well, seemed to me they were closer than her just being hired help,” Jimmy said winking at Judy who was rubbing her sore arm.

“She’s nearly ten years younger than he. I didn’t see anything to lead me to believe they had feelings for each other, not in that way. OUCH, DON’T PULL MY ARM HAIR!” He swatted softly at Judy as she reached for him once again.

“Well, maybe things changed. You should ask him; he seemed like a nice enough fellow to me.”

“Yeah, well, try living with him!” Adam said as he twisted Judy’s arm up behind her.

“LET ME GO!” Judy yelled. People on the street stopped to stare.

“Sorry Jimmy, I didn’t think about your reputation. I’ll quit horsing around. I’m sure you’ll be recognized,” Adam said apologetically as he heard whispers in the street about their behavior.

“Let them stare. They were all young once, right?” Jimmy said pulling the buggy to a stop in front of the house.

“Jimmy, who are your friends?” a lady asked upon their entering the house.

“Hello, mother,” Jimmy said placing a kiss on her cheek. “This is Adam Cartwright, and Judy Wright. We attend college together.”

“Nice to meet you. We are so glad when Jimmy brings company home for dinner.”

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. King. Thank you for the invitation,” Adam returned smiling.

“Well, aren’t you a pleasant young fellow,” she said coming forward to give him a hug.

“Come in, sit down,” Mr. King said coming up behind his wife. “Foods nearly ready.”

“Where’s Kathleen?” Jimmy asked as they sat to the table.

“She’ll be here shortly, I asked her to get Rebecca ready for dinner.”

“Oh, it may be a while then,” Jimmy laughed as he looked towards the stairs.

A little girl bounded down the steps quickly, a doll in her hands. She ran to the table and took her seat next to her mother.

“Kathleen said she’ll be here in a mini. Who’s dee’s people?” the young girl asked staring directly at Adam, her soft yellow curls bouncing as she spoke.

“These are our guests, Rebecca. This is Adam and Judy.” Mrs. King replied, running her fingers through her daughter’s hair.

“Hi ya, I’m Rebecca. Peased to meet you!” Rebecca said, standing to curtsy.

“There you are, you little monkey; you ran off on me.” A girl of Judy’s same build stood behind the small girl’s chair. “Excuse me, father. You know how hard it is to get her dressed some times.

“Kathleen, I would like to introduce Adam and Judy. They will be joining us for dinner,” Mr. King said as his daughter sat down.

“Yes, father told me you had to borrow some clothes. They suit you well,” Kathleen said smiling at Judy.

“Thank you.” Judy returned shyly.

Conversation was warm throughout dinner, each trying to get to know the other better. They listened intently as Adam and Judy spoke of their trip West.

“Adam carried a gun; he told me so.” Jimmy said eyeing his father. “I’m older than he is. When do I get to have a gun?”

“You don’t need a gun, my boy. Adam carried one out of necessity, not for pleasure. It is different out west.”

Jimmy looked at his plate as his father took on a serious tone. Rebecca wiggled in her seat.

“I had better never hear of you even thinking of touching a gun. You are never too old for a whipping, my boy,” Mr. King said staring hard at his son.

“Yes sir,” Jimmy said avoiding his father’s gaze.

“Why don’t you show Adam and Judy the ballroom Jimmy; it’s Rebecca’s turn to clear the plates,” Mr. King said hoping to ease the tension now felt around the room. He had seen his share of gun violence, and the thought of his son seeking this type of activity upset him. The group stood and Jimmy led the way towards the ballroom.

*****

“Pa, I don’t wanna go to school! I gots to stay here with you. I can work real hard, just like Adam did!” Little Joe whined as his father ushered him towards the door.

“Aw Joe, I’m gonna be there too, in the same room. It’ll be fun, you’ll see. Mrs. Ida is real nice,” Hoss said, watching his father place his brother on top of his pony.

“He’s right, son; he’ll be right there with you. You’ve met Mrs. Ida; she came over for your birthday party, remember. She gave you those books and that writing tablet,” Ben said, rubbing his son’s back. Honestly, he would rather Joe have stayed home too; he would miss the company. But he would definitely have more time to get his work done without Joe underfoot. “You have a good day now.”

Joe turned on the tears instantly, hoping this last ditch effort would sway his father. It didn’t work; Ben just patted the horse’s rump and sent him on his way.

Ben watched his crying on leave on the pony, his cries echoing for a short time in the distance. Things were never this difficult when Adam and Hoss started school; they were both looking forward to going. Hoss wanted badly to tag after Adam, and, well, Adam simply wanted to learn. He remembered back to when a school finally opened close enough for them to attend. It was shortly after his marriage to Marie; Adam was twelve, and Hoss was just the right age for starting school, six.

“We’re all ready to go, Pa. Come on, Hoss, your horse is hitched up and ready to go,” Adam said smiling. He had awakened extra early so they could get a head start.

“You have your tablets then, both of you?” Ben asked patting his oldest son on the shoulder.

“Oh, I’ll be right back!” Hoss shouted, running back towards his room.

“You keep a good eye on your brother, Mon Cheri; he will be nervous on his first day,” Marie said coming up next to Ben. She was met with an icy glare, the same look she was met with upon giving any instructions to the older child. They had even argued twice already this morning.

Hoss bounded back outside, tablet in his hands.

“You two have a good day now. Listen to your teacher; I want a full report when you get home,” Ben said watching Hoss mount his pony.

“Yes sir, don’t worry. School will be great!” Adam said, the icy features melting from his face as he remembered where he was headed. “See ya later, Pa!”

Ben smiled as he recalled the excitement of his son’s returning that night. Adam told all he had learned, and how he was able to help Hoss with his numbers assignment. He was assigned an essay to write on how school would benefit his future, and he tore through his dinner and chores so he could get started. He had received excellent marks for his penmanship and grammar, and Ben kept that essay in his keepsakes box.

*****

“Pa, we’re home!” Hoss shouted his usual greeting as he walked in the door.

“Where’s Joe? How was your day?” Ben asked standing to greet his sons.

“He’s scared to come in, Pa; he got in a little trouble today.”

“Trouble? What kind of trouble?”

“Well, he wasn’t paying attention, and Mrs. Ida made him stand in the corner for a spell.”

“Oh, I see. Well, tell him I’d like to see him, would you.” Ben said walking towards the kitchen.

“Sure, Pa.”

Little Joe stumbled inside, his brother leading him by the collar.

“Joe, come on in, tell me about your day.” Ben smiled at his son, trying to encourage him to speak.

“I don’t like school, Pa; I don’t wanna go back.” Joe muttered, his eyes swimming with unshed tears.

“Here, I brought out the milk and cookies, I don’t know about you, but I would sure like some,” Ben said, leading his son to sit beside him.

Joe picked up a cookie, but just stared at it. Hoss picked up three and finished them off quickly.

“Hoss tells me you had a little trouble today, son. Tell me about it.”

“I had to stand in the corner, Pa; she said I wasn’t paying attention.”

“And were you?”

“No, I was thinking about what you would be doing, either out on the ranch or doing some paperwork. I missed you, Pa!” Joe said, the tears finally falling from his eyes.

“I missed you too, Joseph. I’m here now; the day wasn’t that long. Tomorrow you will remember to pay better attention.”

“It’s hard, Pa; there’s so much other stuff I wanna do. I have to sit up front on that awful bench. I really want to stay here, Pa; you can teach me like you did Adam.”

“I did teach Adam, but times were different then. He couldn’t go to school, not until he was Hoss’ age. You have to go to school, Joe; you’ll learn to like it.”

“Oh Pa, I just don’t wanna go!” Little Joe said, his soft cries now turning into a wail. Ben pulled him onto his lap and rocked him back and forth. He wondered if Adam was feeling the same way now. He was so far from home. What if he was upset, missing his family? A single tear trekked down Ben’s cheek as he worried about his youngest son, who was crying his heart out, and his oldest, who was far too many miles away.

*****

Adam walked to school, classes started today, and his excitement shown in his features. He had a class with Jimmy, but none with Judy; they planned to meet for lunch. He walked into the classroom and took a seat near the middle. Students were around him, talking cheerily, having seen each other for the first time since summer break. He pulled out his paper, and writing materials, so he could take notes, though he had already jotted a few as he had read ahead a few chapters. The teacher walked in, a harsh looking fellow wearing a brown suit. He addressed the class and immediate silence followed. He talked about the honor code, and expectations.

“Look around you, to the person on your right, and on your left. One of those two people will not make it through this semester. They are not determined enough, and don’t care enough to truly apply themselves. They know who they are; they know now that they will not make it. They will be weeded out soon enough!” the teacher lectured pounding his fist on his desk as his gaze stopped on Adam.

Adam met his stare with a hard look of determination. He had not expected this on the first day of school. He made up his mind quickly that he would make this man eat his words. He would get through this class with the highest marks. This man would no longer look down his nose at him!

*****

“Hey Adam, over here. How was your first class?” Jimmy asked meeting his friend in the courtyard.

“It was not as I expected. The teacher basically told us all we were going to fail before we even got started.”

“Well, he’s right, ya know. Half of the class drops out the first semester. You don’t have to worry, though; you’re smart enough to make it.”

“I hope so. There’s Judy. You comin’?”

“Can’t, got another class. I doubled up this semester. Decided to major in architecture and engineering both. I’ll see you guys later.”

“Hi Jimmy, you can’t join us?” Judy asked as Jimmy gathered up his belongings.

“Nope, got class. See you around!” he called jogging away.

“Well Adam, fancy meeting you here. You ready for lunch, I fixed us some sandwiches.”

“Oh, a picnic. And how is your first day going, sweetheart?”

“It’s going fine. Same hard nosed professors as last time. I only have a year left, so I’m pretty used to the work. Yours?”

“Just fine. My professor let it be known that he expects me to fail miserably.”

“Oh, must be a wise man.” Judy giggled as Adam gave her a wide-eyed look.

“Some friend you are Judith Wright!” he said as he drew her hand into his.

*****

“Adam, I expected you home sooner. How was your first day?”

“Sorry, I had to stop at the library. I already have two papers to write; I had to get some material.”

“Yes, it’s better to get started quickly.”

“Yes sir.”

“ADAM!”

“Sorry, I mean yes, grandfather.”

“That’s better. You got a letter from home today; it’s on your bed.”

“Thanks!” Adam said hurrying off to receive his letter.

 

Dear Adam,

I hope all is going well. Things around here are fine; I have hired a few more men to fulfill that lumber contract. I know school starts soon, and you will need some supplies. I have wired some money over to help with your expenses. Your brother is badgering me about his starting school soon. Hoss and I cannot convince him that he will like it. I can’t help but think of you and Hoss on your first day of school. I had no trouble with you two,

If you need anything, or come up short on funds, let me know and I will do what I can. Have a good time, and good luck, son.

Love Always,

Pa

 

Adam folded the letter and put it with the others for safe keeping. He read and reread those letters often, whenever he was too homesick to sleep. He began a letter of his own, one to each member of his family.

 

Dear Little Joe,

How ya doing, buddy? I know school started today, and I hope all is going well. If you try your best, you’ll succeed with no trouble, I know you can do it. Remember, you only have to go five days a week; you’ll have the evenings and weekends to hunt and fish. I know some days seem long, but you’ll get through them.

How’s your pony getting along? Are you taking good care of her? Give my horse a hug for me, would you, and make sure Hoss is exercising her regularly.

I found treasure down here at the pier. It is a gold coin with a picture of a ship on it. It was buried in the sand, I uncovered it when I was walking along the shore. Take good care of it. Who knows, maybe it belonged to Black Beard!

Keep your head up, baby brother, and take good care of Pa. He’ll need your support; it’s not easy for him to watch his baby becoming a man.

Love You!

Adam

 

 

Dear Hoss,

Hey little big brother, keeping Joe out of trouble? Maybe you’re doing a better job than I was. I think that boy started giving me gray hairs.

I know school started today. How’d it go for you? Just think, I have four years left till graduation, and so do you. The years will pass quickly for us, brother. I sure miss Mrs. Ida; the professors here are not nearly as friendly. If you have any trouble with your work, you just ask Pa for help. I was reminded of our first day of school by Pa; his memories seem to be a little different than mine. I guess school went okay, but do you remember that night? I got the tanning of my life. Funny how he seems to have forgotten that. I plan to remind him!

Anyway, I met up with Judy and we are having a great time. She is more beautiful than before. I made another friend, Jimmy. You would like him; his father reminds me a lot of Pa.

I miss you, brother. I sent along a drawing a man on the street made. It’s an Indian on a horse. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Your Big Brother,

Adam

 

 

Dear Pa,

I thought about Little Joe and his first day of school all day today. I hope his went better than mine. My professors are unlike I imagined; they seem very uptight. I’m not really worried, however; I know I can do the work. You reminded me of my first day of school; our memories seem to differ some. Let me remind you a little of that day, since your memories seem to be failing you. It was not so much school that was the problem; it was the coming home that I will never forget.

“Adam, come down for dinner!” Ben yelled up to his son who had quickly retreated to his bedroom to start his essay. He sat back down to the table as Hop Sing brought the dishes out. They waited a few minutes, then began to eat, Adam knew he was supposed to be down for dinner; it was no one’s fault but his own if he missed it. Dinner was half way through when he finally arrived.

Marie had asked Ben a few times if she should go remind him that dinner was waiting, but Ben would not relent. If he went to bed hungry, then it would remind him the next time to be at the table when dinner was served.

“Dinner is nearly over; you’re just now coming down?” Ben replied, his tone filled with annoyance.

“Sorry Pa, I guess I was lost in my essay.” Adam said reaching for the last of the biscuits.

“Aw Adam, I wanted one more of those biscuits.” Hoss said sticking his bottom lip out.

“You ate ‘em all already, Hoss; these are mine.”

“Adam, you give one of those biscuits to your brother!” Ben said glaring at Adam.

“Pa, he already probably had more than you and Marie put together.”

“Do not argue with me, Adam!”

Adam handed a biscuit to Hoss, giving him a hard stare. Hoss took the biscuit and stared down at his plate. He hated when his brother was cross with him, especially after they had such a good day together.

“So, Hoss tells me you and he sat together during lunch. That was nice. Did you have a chance to make any new friends?” Marie asked, hoping to start a conversation.

“Judy was there. She sat with us,” Adam said not bothering to look at Marie as he spoke.

“But Judy is already your friend. Were there any new children around to play with?”

“Some.”

“Did you speak with them, or join in the fun? What were they doing?”

“I don’t know. Can we talk about this later, I’m eating!” Adam said harshly. He did not like this woman, and he would take every opportunity to let her know. He had forgotten that he was already on thin ice with his father over being late to dinner.

“ADAM, YOU APOLOGIZE THIS INSTANT! Your mother was asking you a question and she expects an answer. You are skating on thin ice young man; another statement like that and you and I will have a VERY necessary talk upstairs!” Ben boomed, his fork banging the table loudly from where he had dropped it.

Adam stared hard at his father. She was not his mother! She was just some woman his father had married, without even speaking with him first. They had many necessary talks about his treatment of Marie, but his opinion would not change. He was tired of his father trying to force him to accept her as his new mother.

“WELL!” Ben yelled when Adam did not respond.

“I will not; she is not my mother. She doesn’t care what happened at school today; she just wants me to like her.” He turned eyes on Marie that were filled to the brim with hate. “I will never like you, just leave it alone. You live with my father and that is all; I would appreciate it if you would mind your own damn business!” He was lifted out of his chair as the last word left his mouth. His father carried him bodily up the stairs to his bedroom. He made sure that Adam could not sit comfortable for a week, as a reminder on how his behavior had better improve.

That is what I remember about my first day of school, Pa. Good thing I finished that essay before dinner, because afterwards, my hind end would let me concentrate on nothing else. I still feel bad about that, I think after our little talk, I may have changed my attitude a bit. Marie was a wonderful mother, I realize that now. I wish she were here to talk with. I wouldn’t mind telling her about my first day of school now. I have made a new friend — his name is Jimmy. His family is quite wealthy, as I just found out, but they are good people. Most around here bearing wealth are put off with me, just because I come from the west. Jimmy is really nice, and his father is a lot like you. He has two younger sisters — you would really like them. Judy and I have been able to spend some time together. Things between us haven’t changed much.

Grandfather has kept me on a tight leash. I actually got in a bit of trouble recently, and he restricted me to the house. I had to go to work with him, and then I helped him organize his work. He is actually quite strict. It’s hard to believe this is the same man who wrote me those letters. He didn’t seem as gruff as he is. We get along alright, I suppose; sometimes I feel like a burden. I suppose in time we will get used to each other. It really helps to have my books with me, but I wish I could have brought along my guitar.

Make sure Little Joe stays out of my things!

Anyway, I have rattled on long enough. I really miss you, and four years seems much longer now. But, the time will pass quick enough. Don’t let Little Joe go and grow up on me.

Your loving Son,

Adam

 

*****

 

“LOOKIE PA, LOOKIE! WE GOT NOTES FROM ADAM!” Hoss said as he jumped up and down after getting the mail from the post office.

“So we did; let’s open them when we get home.”

“Aw Pa, can’t we open ‘em now?” Hoss pouted, holding his letter tightly in his hands.

“You heard what I said, Hoss; now lets finish loading the supplies. The sooner we load, the sooner we’ll get home. Besides, we would never hear the end of it if we opened them without Joseph.”

“Alright!” Hoss grumbled as he hoisted the heavy boxes into the wagon.

*****

“Did you like your letters, boys? What cha got there, Joe?” Ben said as he watched his boys read their letters.

“IT’S REAL LIVE TREASURE, PA! HE UNCOVERED IT AT THE BEACH. LOOK, IT’S GOLD!” Joe said showing his father the shiny gold coin.

“So, it is son. You better take good care of it,” Ben laughed, seeing that it was a fake gold coin that could be bought almost anywhere along the coast.

“Adam said that maybe it belonged to Black Beard; it could be from his treasure. Are there still pirates out where Adam is Pa? Could he get hurt?” Joe asked, his mind filling with scenes of Adam fighting against a band of pirates.

“No, Joe, there are no pirates where Adam is. Why don’t you go put your coin some place safe? What about you, Hoss?”

“He sent me this drawing Pa, just look at it. Can I go upstairs and hang it in my room?”

“You sure can. Need any help?”

“No, I can do it. Oh, and Pa…”

“Yes?”

“You think Adam’s still sore from his first day of school back here?” Hoss smiled as he turned towards the stairs. That was one day he would never forget; he had never heard his brother cry out during a tanning, but he certainly did that night.

Ben frowned. What was he talking about? Why would Adam be sore?” He opened his letter, to read privately as he always did. His frown turned to a smile as he recalled that awful day. Raising three boys certainly was not an easy job. He read on and noticed how Adam spoke more freely about his feelings in these letters. He spoke of missing his mother Marie, and that was very unusual. His oldest boy was not usually expressive with his emotions. He wondered if this would open a new line of communication between he and his son.

*****

“Adam, Robert and I were going to study at the library this evening. Would you like to join us?” Judy said as they walked together to her Aunt’s home.

“You and Robert. I don’t know. I don’t think he likes me much.”

“Oh, you just have to get used to Robert and his moods. It’ll be fine; I know you have a lot of studying to do anyway.”

“I guess I could, Grandfather will be at the town meeting tonight. I could use some company, I guess.”

“Great, meet us at six.”

“See ya then.” Adam said placing a light lingering kiss on Judy’s lips.

****

“Hey Jimmy, I didn’t know you were coming here tonight too,” Adam said as he saw Jimmy sitting at a table in the library.

“Well, I wasn’t planning on it, but I stopped to say hello to Judy, and she invited me along.”

“Great. With Robert around, the more the merrier.”

“He is something of a prude, isn’t he?”

“I don’t know if prude would be the best word to describe him; a few other choice words come to mind. Look, here they come.” Adam gave a slight wave, then made a face at Jimmy.

“Hello Adam, Jimmy. You two early?”

“No, you are late as usual; punctuality was never one of your fortes.”

“Oh Adam, don’t start. I have a few secrets of my own I could share about your shortcomings.”

“Better start studying then. Hello Robert, I hope you don’t mind us tagging along.”

“Well, I must say I was not informed that you would be meeting us here until it was time to go.”

“Oh, would you like us to sit else where?” Jimmy asked looking hard at Judy’s friend.

“Don’t be silly; of course you can sit with us. Don’t mind Robert; he is having a hard day.”

“Let’s hope it improves then.”

They group studied silently for a few hours. Finally ending with Adam closing his text, the group began to speak.

“So, you come from the West I hear.” Robert said scrutinizing Adam with his eyes.

“Nevada Territory. My father owns a ranch, the Ponderosa.”

“You are from a wealthy home then, I take it?”

“We get by.”

“Your hands look quite rough for your family having money. Can’t you hire people to do the hard work for you?”

“Could, but hard work is the essence of man, wouldn’t you say.”

“Hard work and meaningless labor are two different things. My father worked hard to become a lawyer, the best in town. You manhandling cattle…I would not call hard work at all; I would call it rather uncivilized.”

Adam felt himself begin to anger. He knew he would face this type of rebuke; he hoped to maintain his temper.

“Living off your father’s money is what I would call uncivilized.”

“I beg your pardon!”

“You don’t even know what it means to work; don’t look down your nose at me. You do nothing, but go to school and slide by on the seat of your pants. You’ll be quite surprised when you get out on your own and realize what it means to make it on your own. However, if you would like to continue this discussion, I think it would be best if it continued outside,” Adam said standing menacingly over Robert, his fists clenched, and face reddening.

“I’ll never understand why you keep the company you do, Judy. You could do so much better. To think, a boy like this wanting to fight in the streets. When you come to your senses about who you shall be socializing with, please let me know.” Robert stood and started for the entrance. He was grabbed roughly from behind, and was met with a surprising punch from Jimmy. Robert stumbled towards the exit, holding one hand over his bleeding nose, giving Jimmy one last scared look as he left the building.

“I can’t believe you did that! Jimmy!” Judy said looking as surprised as Adam that Jimmy would behave in such a manner.

“Had it coming. Trouble is, I think I hit him wrong, my hand really hurts.”

“Let me see,” Adam said, grabbing it and pulling it towards him.

“OUCH!” Jimmy yelled as Adam jerked his aching hand.

“I believe you three need to leave this establishment this instant. Having a fight in a library. I ought to have you arrested!” The head of the library stood angrily tapping her foot in front of the three heathens in front of her.

“Sorry, ma’am, we’ll be going.” Adam said as he pulled Jimmy towards the door.

“AAAAHHHHHH , LET GO, YA JERK!” Jimmy howled at the mistreatment he was receiving from his friend.

“Sorry, buddy, didn’t mean to hurt ya. Looks like you put your thumb in when you punched, probably dislocated it.”

“Let’s just go to my house, you can fix it there. You do know how to fix it, don’t you?” Jimmy asked, cradling his injured thumb.

“Sure. With two brothers, you learn quick what needs a doctor and what can be fixed on its own.”

“Hello, boys, Judy. So glad you stopped by. It is rather late, though, isn’t it?” Mr. King said as the trio entered the house.

“Sorry father; seems I got myself in a sort of predicament.”

“What sort of predicament, son?”

“I punched Robert Scott in the nose and dislocated my thumb. Adam’s gonna fix it for me.”

“You punched Robert Scott in the nose! Whatever for?”

“He deserved it; he had it in the air.”

“I see. Well, I hope his father doesn’t get wind of this. I know he works for me, but he is one of my best workers, I would hate to lose him over a rift between sons.”

“YYYEEEEEOOOOOOWWWWWCCCCCHHHHHH!” Jimmy yelled as Adam pushed his thumb back into place. “Gee, a little warning would have been nice!”

“Sorry. It’s fixed now, ready to punch all the noses you want. Next time I recommend holding your thumb like this.” Adam demonstrated how to properly throw a punch by hitting Judy lightly in the arm.

“ADAM!” You can be such a brute.” Judy said, rubbing her arm. “That smarted.”

“Here, I’ll hold him for you; you can get him back.” Jimmy said grabbing Adam’s arms and holding them behind him.

“Now boys and girl, it is much too late for such tomfoolery; you have probably already awakened your youngest sister.”

“Sorry, father. Well, thanks for fixing my thumb, Adam. See you later, Judy. Are we still on for tomorrow?”

“Yes, I will meet you in front of the bell tower at three.” Judy said smiling as she headed for the door.

Adam and Judy left the house, playfully swatting each other on the way out.

“So, what are you two doing tomorrow?”

“Jimmy is going to take me to the evening performance of Hamlet. He helped to create the set.”

“I see. That’ll be fun. I’d go too if I hadn’t promised my grandfather I would accompany him to the Mark’s social.”

“Yes, I am sure Hamlet will be much more lively. You will probably be the youngest one there.”

“Probably. Well, here you are. I’ll see you Saturday then; don’t forget you promised me a day at the pier.”

“I’ll see you Saturday.”

*****

“Grandfather, do I look okay in this? I’ve never worn one of these vests before.”

“You like fine son, rather handsome I must say. The ladies will swoon over you.”

“Ladies, old as dust.” Adam said under his breath.

“What was that, son?”

“I said looking good for the ladies is a must.”

“Oh, yes. Right.” Abel said, looking at Adam in confusion. “Let’s get going then; wouldn’t want to be late.”

“Probably a bunch of old bats,” he mumbled again enjoying his game.

“Excuse me?”

“I said I can’t forget to grab my hat.”

“Oh. Sure.”

Adam laughed his way out the door.

*****

“This is your grandson? Why Abel Stoddard, I had no idea he would be so handsome,” Ms. Weatherby swooned.

“Of course he is handsome; he comes from good stock,” Abel said smiling at the lady near his own age.

“Thanks, grandfather, make me sound like cattle.”

“What, son? I couldn’t hear you.”

“I said thanks grandfather, you sure know how to flatter.”

“You’re quite welcome. Come meet Mrs. Winters.”

This went on for the first half of the party. Abel was quite proud to show off his grandson. Many of the ladies adored him, and he was now in the middle of a nest of harping women. Abel stood by listening in to the conversation he was stuck in, smiling at the uncomfortable situation his grandson was now in.

“…and you wouldn’t believe it. Here were these two young men and a young lady, swimming off the pier. They weren’t even dressed properly for the occasion, and to think a young respectable girl being thrown about by a young man in front of all those people.”

Adam shifted uncomfortably. He knew these ladies were talking about his earlier escapade with Judy and Jimmy at the pier. Thank goodness they hadn’t recognized him, he thought.

“One of those boys I recognized as young Jimmy King. I meant to let his father know about his unorthodox behavior, but I have yet to see him again. I wonder who that other young man was. Those three could use a good lesson in manners. I bet you would never behave so foolishly.”

“Could I offer you another refreshment, ma’am; yours seems to be running low,” Adam asked, hoping to escape.

“No thank you. Oh, there is Beverly; I must inform her about what I saw Mrs. Bellman and Mr. Hancock doing at last week’s brunch. Please excuse me.”

“Yes ma’am.” Adam heaved a sigh of relief as the swarm of ladies finally moved on.

“Is this seat taken?” a young lady asked, sitting down next to Adam.

“No. Please sit down. My name is Adam Cartwright.”

“My name is Elizabeth Mitchell. I haven’t seen you around before. Are you new here?”

Adam studied her features. Her hair was half up, leaving long brown flowing locks of hair cascading down her back. Her eyes were brown also, her cheekbones high. He stopped swooning to answer her question, his cheeks reddening just a bit. “Yes, I’m from Nevada Territory.”

“Oh, from the west. I take it that is all people wish to speak with you about then.”

“Well, that and other things. But, yes. Mostly they wish to speak with me about how uncivilized I must be.”

“Yes, Boston society focuses mainly on one’s background and upbringing. I am afraid you would be seen as someone that needs proper training in etiquette.”

“And do you see me as such?”

“I hardly know you enough to be the judge of that. So do you attend school here then, or are you just getting away?”

“I am attending Harvard. I’ll be headed back West after I finish my schooling.”

“And you are studying?”

“Architecture and Engineering.”

“You enjoy designing and building things then. You know, when I was just a girl, I was determined to fly. I tried to make a device that would allow me to float when I jumped off the roof. My mother’s sheet did not work as planned, and resulted in a broken ankle. I could use some lessons in the art of engineering.”

“Sounds that way. I tried to make a catapult one time. Ended up it worked, but the snow I had loaded it with was misdirected and hit my father squarely in the chest and face. I can say that my catapulting days were over.”

“So, your family is in the Nevada Territory still?”

“Yes, I’m staying with my Grandfather, Abel Stoddard.”

Adam went on to tell Elizabeth of his adventures in childhood, about his family, and his interests in literature. He was surprised at how easily he was able to talk with her, and ended up thoroughly enjoying the rest of his evening.

*****

“Pa, you think Adam misses us as much as we do him?” Hoss asked when his father tucked him in to bed.

“I’m sure he does. He’s just busy with school is all. He’ll write again soon.”

“I hope so. I worry about him sometimes; he’s awful far away.”

“I do to, but you know his grandfather will take good care of him.”

*****

Adam was wide awake when he arrived home that evening. His grandfather was snoring beside him as he drove them home in the wagon. He had a wonderful evening, and enjoyed Elizabeth’s company greatly. Now his thoughts turned to his family as he had reminisced about them that evening with his new friend. He went to his room and gathered his paper for writing. It had been a few weeks since he had last written, and he was sure his family would be expecting a letter soon.

 

Dear Hoss, Joe, and Pa,

Things are quite busy around here as of late. I am surprised at the amount of studying I really have to do in order to keep up. I am learning a lot already, and have some ideas for the Ponderosa when I get back. I went to my first social with Grandfather tonight, and at first it was rather dull. Then, I met someone my own age, and I ended up having a really great evening. I plan to meet her again this Sunday after church. Her name is Elizabeth. Isn’t that quite the coincidence Pa?

Judy and Jimmy and I have become really good friends. Jimmy’s father calls us the trio. Judy and her friend Robert are no more; you could say they had a sort of falling out. Who knew a boy like Jimmy could pack such a punch? Robert deserved it, but Jimmy ended up dislocating his thumb. Don’t worry, Hoss, I showed him how to correctly punch someone, the same way I showed you. Let’s just hope that doesn’t back fire on me like it did with you. My jaw still hurts some days!

Little Joe, I am hoping all is well. How are you liking school now that you have been there for a while? I bet you have a lot of new friends. I am sending you more treasure – this time it is silver, embedded with a picture on the front. I couldn’t make out what it was, but I hope you can. I sent along a few shells also from the ocean. I have started quite the collection.

I hope all is well with you also, Pa. I really miss you guys. I miss the smell of the pines, the sun set over the lake, I even miss riding the fence line. Well, it is rather late, so I better close.

Lots of Love,

Adam

 

 

He sealed the letter, and set it on his desk. He would deliver it tomorrow as he collected the mail for his grandfather.

*****

Part Three – A Time for Play

 

“So, this school year seemed to have passed quickly. You have received your grades, I suspect.” Abel asked as Adam stared at letter in his hand from his school.

“They are here. Do you want to do the honor of opening them?” Adam asked, amazed that a year could pass so quickly.

“No, it was your hard work; you open them. Should I be worried? Your father will be on the next stage out if it is bad news. I would hate to be in your shoes then!”

“The only way to find out is to open it up.” Adam opened the letter, and looked over it carefully.

Engineering 101 – A Western Civilization 103 – A

Chemistry 100 – A- English Literature 100 – A

 

Adam smiled; he had worked hard and it paid off. He handed the report to his grandfather and walked slowly back to his room. He couldn’t wait to go out tonight and celebrate. He was to meet Judy, Jimmy and Elizabeth at the pub for drinks, then they would go to Jimmy’s for a little dancing.

Abel smiled as he saw his grandson’s high marks. He walked towards Adam’s room to congratulate him. He opened the door and walked in; Adam was half undressed.

“Can’t you ever knock! We’ve been going through this for a year now. How many times are you going to walk in on me? Adam yelled pulling his pants the rest of the way up.

“I’ve seen that bottom before, changed your dirty nappies many times. Besides, this is my house, and I do not need to knock. It keeps you on your toes.”

“You’re impossible!”

“I wanted to congratulate you on your work. You have really proven yourself this year. It is quite an accomplishment to receive all A’s both semesters. Your father will be quite proud. How about we go out tonight and celebrate?”

“Thank you, but I had planned on meeting Judy, Jimmy and Elizabeth this evening. How about Sunday?”

“Can’t Sunday, I have plans. Can’t you reschedule?”

“Sorry, there’s no time. I’ve got to finish getting ready and be on my way. Some other time then.” Adam finished dressing and walked past his grandfather towards the door.

“Yes, some other time.”

Abel sighed as he watched Adam leave the apartment once again. He spent many nights out now; their eating supper together had become something of the past. He was beginning to feel as if he were running a hotel, with comings and goings at all hours, sometimes even without a word. He would have to have a talk with the boy. They had been getting along so well he dreaded the confrontation. He decided he would write Ben for some advice; maybe he would have a simple solution to offer. He sat to begin the letter.

 

Dear Benjamin,

It has been a long time since I have sent word your way. I am pleased to say that Adam is doing very well here. He received his grades today for the end of the year, and has once again received the highest marks. That is quite an accomplishment. He has many friends, and his social life is becoming quiet busy.

I’ve always been a man to get straight to the point. Please excuse my frankness. I need your advice on how to handle a certain situation. Adam and I had an agreement when he came here that I expected him to dinner most nights, with few exceptions. It seems I have been too lenient on him, and this agreement has been blown to the wayside. He has been coming and going at all hours of the night, many social events and gatherings. I would like to confront the boy, but we have been getting on so well, I hate to upset him. You know how stubborn the boy can be when he doesn’t get his way. I will have to put up with his incessant pouting.

Anyway, I thought maybe you had dealt with this before, and you knew of an easier way to communicate with the boy. Please respond soon, I don’t know how much longer this foolishment will continue, and that is an order.

Your’s Truly,

Captain Stoddard

 

He sealed the letter and placed it with Adam’s to be sent out in the next day’s mail. He then went to his chair to snooze while he waited for his grandson’s safe return.

*****

Adam came stumbling in when the sun had just begun its morning glow. He had trouble getting his key in the lock, and made quite a racket upon his entrance, though he tried to be quiet. Suddenly the door was flung open, causing him to lose his balance and stumble into his grandfather’s grasp. He laughed loudly as they both landed on the floor.

“You caught me! Literally and figuratively speaking.” Adam laughed as they struggled to get up. Deciding against it, he lay back down on the floor.

“YOU’RE DRUNK” Abel shouted rubbing his sore back while getting up off the floor.

“What would give you that impression?” Adam laughed his drunken giggle, head resting on the floor looking up at his grandfather.

“GET OFF THAT FLOOR THIS INSTANT, YOUNG MAN! HOW DARE YOU COME TO MY HOUSE THIS WAY!”

“I tried to stay at Jimmy’s, but his father wouldn’t let us. How were we supposed to know that was his best whiskey? It was quite good, I must say.” He tried to turn on his stomach, made it to all fours before falling back down laughing.

“I SAID GET UP! I HAVE THE RIGHT MIND TO PUT YOU OVER MY KNEE, THAT MAY JUST BE WHAT I’LL DO YET!” Abel yanked him roughly off the floor and held him face to face by the front of his shirt.

“Ohhhh, I think I’m gonna be sick.” Adam said, his face paling into a shade of grey, the world spinning to keep up with the way he was jerked off the floor. He felt his grandfather pull him into the water closet; Abel held him up as he retched over and over again, his body trying to rid itself of the brown liquid he had consumed.

“When you get up tomorrow, you and I are going to have a necessary talk, young man.” Abel said helping Adam to bed before storming off to his own room.

Adam lay awake fighting the urge to vomit once again. Planting one foot on the floor beside the bed, he tried to hold his world still. He was beginning to fade in and out now, the words’ necessary talk’ echoing through his head. He was taken back to a confrontation he’d had with his father; it ending in a very necessary talk too, in the words of his father.

“ADAM! I WANT YOU DOWN HERE THIS INSTANT!” Ben bellowed from the great room.

“Uh oh, brother, looks like Pa found out about your little secret.”

“Cover for me, Hoss, I’m going out the window!” Adam said as he hurried towards his quick exit.

“ADAM, I’LL COUNT TO THREE! ONE……..TWO!”

“You better go; you know things ‘will be a lot worse if he gets to three!”

“He can count to a hundred for all I care. I’m not going down there,” Adam said as he slid out the window onto the roof.

“THREE! ALRIGHT, HAVE IT YOUR WAY.” Ben started walking heavily towards the stair way. In his hand he held a small pistol he had found hidden in Adam’s drawer next to an empty bottle of whiskey.

Adam jumped off the roof and onto the nicely stacked wood below. He tumbled down with the wood as it rolled onto the ground. Standing up quickly and dusting himself off, he headed towards the barn to saddle Beauty for a quick get a way.

“WHERE IS HE, HOSS!” Ben yelled looking around the empty room.

“Out the window Pa. I told him not to do it.”

“This is one time he should have taken your advice. Wait till I get my hands on that boy!”

“You gonna kill him, Pa? Adam said you would if you got your hands on ‘im.”

“That’s just a figure of speech, Hoss; of course, I won’t kill him, but he may wish I would by the time I am through with him.”

“Ben! Why is Adam riding Beauty?” Marie called arriving home after a social call she and Little Joe had made to her friend Sally’s house.

“I’ll tell you why. Do you know what I found in your son’s room today?”

“My son… uh oh, that means trouble.”

“Papa, Babam ride too fast.” Little Joe said, his eyebrows burrowed as he imitated his father’s stern look.

“I found that pistol he was admiring in the store window, the one I plainly told him he could not have. With it, I found an empty bottle of WHISKEY! My fourteen-year-old son with a GUN AND A BOTTLE OF WHISKEY!”

“Oh Dear. So that’s why he took off. What are you going to do, Ben?”

“I’m going to catch him that’s what. By the time I’m through with that boy he won’t ever look at a bottle of whiskey or a gun again!”

Adam awoke late in the afternoon with a raging headache. He rolled over to hide his face in the pillow, wondering why his bottom hurt so much; it was only a dream after all. Covering his head with the pillow, he thought about what he had done last night.

He and Jimmy had decided that after having a few drinks at the Pub, they would enjoy their time better at Jimmy’s. The bartender had threatened to cut them off; Judy and Elizabeth were both quite tipsy themselves.

“Let’s go, troops, my abode awaits!” Jimmy said, stumbling towards the door.

Adam walked in between Judy and Elizabeth, arm in arm, as Jimmy joined the group on Judy’s side. They sang as they walked down the sidewalk towards Jimmy’s buggy.

“Who’s gonna drive? Oh, right. We brought George along. Lead the way Sir George!” Jimmy said to his family’s hired driver.

As they arrived at Jimmy’s, they made their way into the ballroom. Opening the liquor cabinet, Jimmy and Adam both removed an unopened bottle of whiskey.

“TO US!” Jimmy shouted as he drank straight from the bottle, then handed it to Judy. Elizabeth and Adam did the same. By the end of the hour, they had consumed a bottle of whiskey between the two pairs. Judy and Elizabeth were now sick, and Mr. King made the driver take them home. He had discovered their actions when he tripped over an empty bottle on the floor. His shouting shook the rafters.

“JIMMY! WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS! YOU ARE NOT TO BE DRINKING AT THIS HOUR!”

“I wasn’t drinking!” Jimmy slurred, then leaned heavily on Adam as they began to laugh.

“GET UP TO BED NOW! ADAM, MY DRIVER WILL TAKE YOU HOME! YOU AND I WILL DISCUSS THIS TOMORROW. SAY GOODBYE TO YOUR FRIENDS. YOU WON’T BE SEEING THEM FOR A LONG WHILE!” Mr. King yelled dragging his son towards his room. Jimmy was no longer laughing.

Neither was Adam, he heard footfalls headed towards his room; he shoved his head further under the pillow.

“ADAM!” Abel yelled as he opened the door without knocking.

Adam lay still under his pillow, hoping to disappear. He had never known the wrath of his grandfather, and he didn’t want to now.

Abel yanked the pillow off of the bed and hit him with it in the back of the head. “GET UP! ENOUGH OF THIS FOOLISHMENT.”

Adam turned his head slowly, still lying on his stomach and faced his grandfather.

“Either you get up now, or I get you up. Which is it?!”

“I’m up, just give me a second.”

“The only thing I’m gonna give you is a sound spanking, NOW GET UP!”

Adam stood up slowly, his head pounding, his hands shaking.

“I would like you to tell me what was going through your head last night! Coming home at four in the morning so drunk you can’t even stand on your own!”

“Sorry grandfather, things just got a little out of hand.”

“You are nineteen years old, and you live under my roof. Let me make it clear right now that the behavior you have been displaying is unacceptable. You have been coming home late, leaving early without so much as a word. This is not a hotel, son, and I don’t expect to be treated as such. Now you pull this little stunt. Tell me why I shouldn’t send you on the first stage back home this instant!”

“I told you, it just got out of hand. We were having a good time; I didn’t mean to drink that much. I really am sorry.”

“Sorry is not enough. I trusted you! You want to be treated as an adult and you go and do something as foolish as this! What is Jimmy’s father gonna think of this? You know how everyone is always watching for you to make a mistake and prove their theory that you are just some uncouth scoundrel from the West. Well my son, you may have just proven them right!”

“Give me a break. Everyone gets drunk…”

“Everyone but you! FROM THIS MOMENT ON, YOU WILL STAY HERE IN THE EVENINGS. YOU ARE ON RESTRICTION, YOUNG MAN!”

“Grandfather, I am too old to be put on restriction. I’m…”

“TOO OLD! Oh, let me tell you, you will never be too old. It seems I have been too lenient on you as of late. Well, that will all change here and now. Too old indeed. I have not finished with your punishment yet. For your behavior, acting no smarter than your average school boy, I will treat you as such. I promised you a spanking and a spanking you will get. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before you pick up a bottle.”

“YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SPANK ME, I’M A GROWN MAN!”

“I can, and I will. Now turn around. Or would you rather I write to your father and tell him the reason for your early departure.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Try me. Now it’s either you take your punishment like a man, or you take the first stage back home. The choice is yours.”

“I can’t believe your doing this. You have no right!” Adam said, feeling his stomach doing flip flops and trying to stand steady.

“I have every right. I am your grandfather, and I expect you to respect me. I don’t want to do this anymore than you want me to but you leave me no choice. Lean over your desk; the sooner we deal with this the sooner we can move on.”

“You have a choice, and I won’t forgive you for this,” Adam said, leaning over his desk and closing his eyes.

*****

Abel walked out of the room and closed the door quietly. He felt terrible. Each time Adam cried out was like a knife stabbing through his heart. He had never used a belt before; he was hoping he wasn’t too harsh, though his anger had gotten the better of him. After the deed was done, Adam remained where he was. Abel watched a few seconds to see if the boy would want to talk, receiving no such gesture he decided to retreat.

Adam stood as the door closed and turned back to his bed. Lying down carefully, he tried to push away the stinging pain he felt in his backside. His father had never hit him that hard. He was more embarrassed than anything, crying out like that was unlike him. He was angry at being treated like a fourteen-year-old child instead of the man he was. His grandfather had no right to treat him that way. He was old enough to make his own decisions and if he wanted to get drunk he would! If his grandfather thought this battle was over, Adam would soon prove him otherwise. He was a man, and no one would tell him what he could or could not do.

“GAMPAW!”

“Yes Adam?”

“Will you pway wif me?”

“Not now, Adam, I have to go to the shop.”

“Pwease!”

“I SAID NOT NOW!”

Abel walked towards the door of the apartment when he was stopped by the angry eyes of his two year old grandson.

“You never pway wif me. You promised you would, now you bye-bye ‘gain.”

“I told you I have to work; now move out of the way.”

“No!”

“ADAM!”

“You mean. Never do nofin wif me. You say’d you wiked me. You lied!”

“I did not lie; I do like you. I have to work. I know I have been gone a lot lately, but I’m trying to keep up with business. Why am I explaining myself to a two-year-old? Move away from the door, Adam, or I will move you!”

“You no wike me. You wike work. Me no wike you either, me wike Papa! You go away.” Adam said moving away from the door, his little hands in tight fists.

Abel shook his head angrily as he walked out the door. No two-year-old was going to tell him what to do. So he couldn’t play. What’s the big deal? A man has to work. If Adam thought he made headway in this battle, boy, was he wrong. He would soon prove him otherwise. The world did not revolve around him!

Abel woke up with a start. He remembered that day vividly. He had made it all the way to work, but the little boy’s face kept appearing in his mind. He felt terrible, treating his grandson that way when all he was asking for was a little time. He had left work after only an hour and walked back to the apartment. He had taken Adam to the pier and together they watched the large ships go in and out of the harbor.

Adam saw his grandfather was sleeping and made his escape. He’d show him. No one could tell him he couldn’t leave the house. He walked towards Jimmy’s; he wanted to apologize to Mr. King about his behavior. He stopped and knocked, the door being answered by Mona, one of the maids.

“Is Jimmy here?”

“He is, but I don’t think he is expecting any visitors.”

“Really, I wanted to see Mr. King.”

“Well, come on in, I’ll see if he has time.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

The maid smiled. It was unheard of to be called ma’am when you were simply a servant. She liked this boy’s manners.

“Adam, is that you?”

“Yeah Jimmy, how are you feeling today?”

“Like hell frozen over. You?”

“Yeah, that’s about right. Your Pa mad?”

“Took his belt to me. And to think, I thought I was too old for a spanking. What about your Grandfather?”

“Let’s just say, we had a necessary talk.” Adam said smiling to himself. He would never admit he to had received a spanking.

“Well, I’m on restriction; I better get back upstairs. If he catches me down here, I’m liable to be killed. I’ll see you around. What a way to start the summer huh!”

“Yeah, great. See ya Jimmy.”

“Adam, good evening. Mona told me you were here to see me.”

“Yes sir. I wanted to apologize for my behavior last night. I would like to pay for the liquor we drank.”

“Apology accepted, only I would appreciate you not to partake in that behavior again, especially under my roof.”

“Yes sir, I won’t. About paying, it may be a while; I have to find a job. I should have started looking long before this. I don’t know, maybe I was just seeing what it was like to live like a Boston socialite. Lots of play, little work is their motto.”

“I understand; you have worked hard all your life. You still are; earning the marks you are is not an easy thing. About work, I may have a proposition for you. I am planning on starting a ship-building business. How would you like to design a fleet? If I like what I see, we will use your design to create my company. You will earn commission, which means if we like one of your models and decide to use it, you will get paid. If your models do not meet our standards, you will not get a dime.”

“THAT SOUNDS WONDERFUL! Thank you, Mr. King. You won’t be disappointed, I assure you. But, I might need a partner…you know, someone to bounce idea’s with.”

“Who did you have in mind?”

“How about Jimmy? I know he could use the work as well. I only drank one of those bottles,” Adam said with a smile.

“That sounds fine. I was going to put Jimmy on dock duty, but this would be good practice for him. How about you enjoy your weekend, and start Monday?”

“Thank you, Mr. King.” Adam said backing towards the door. “Wait ‘till I tell my father!”

“Have a good day, Ada,” Mr. King said, watching the boy leave. “Jimmy, I know you were listening from the landing. Same goes for you; I want you to start Monday. Now, about that list of chores.”

“Oooohhhhh PA, do I have to wash the windows? You know how much I hate that!”

“Precisely.”

*****

Abel walked towards Adam’s room. He wanted to check on the boy, try to make things right between them. He knocked, receiving no reply he opened the door and peered in. The room was empty. He saw a paper on the desk, thinking maybe he had left a note he picked it up and began to read.

 

Dear Pa,

It’s been a while since I have written. I have been busy with finals and such, but it really paid off. I have enclosed my report as you’ve probably already seen.

I recently visited a science museum — it’s just a small one, actually inside someone’s home. What I saw there was quite intriguing. There were fossils, and art drawn on stone. Beside each item was its history, and the date it was believed to be originated. I found it all fascinating. Maybe someday I can bring Little Joe out to see it. There is also a zoo here Hoss would love to see. All kinds of animals. Anyway, I was missing you and decided I better write.

Pa, I would like you to read the rest of this letter privately. I messed up. I stayed out late with some friends, and put myself in a rather awkward position. Grandfather was very upset with me. I have never seen him so angry. I’m worried that our relationship is now beyond repair. I didn’t mean to disappoint him, but I do not feel he treated me fairly. I am an adult now; he treated me like a child. I don’t think I can stay here after this. I am thinking of getting a job that will help me pay for room and board elsewhere. If I were to live on my own, I would become more responsible, independent. I know you worry, but it is truly safe out here. I think I am just ready to move on. I don’t know that he really wants me here anymore, and I hate to be a burden. I know I should talk to him about it, but I just can’t. I hope you understand Pa. I will write again as soon as I have found a suitable job.

Love and Miss You

Adam

 

Abel wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. What did the boy mean he was a burden? He hadn’t meant to make him feel that way. The boy was never home. How could he be a burden? And now their relationship was beyond repair, over one little incident. Abel knew he needed to talk to him; he hoped Adam would listen. He kept the letter with him and left the room, leaving the door wide open.

*****

Adam walked home slowly, he knew his grandfather would be awake by now, and he dreaded another confrontation. He planned on telling him that he was moving out; he just needed a little more time to gather some more money. Not looking where he was going, he was nearly knocked flat by a large looking man wearing a sailor’s uniform.

“WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, KID!” The sailor said, pushing Adam backwards with all his might.

“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. Excuse me,” Adam said, trying to walk around the man.

“I think you owe me more than a sorry! You don’t look too sorry. You’re probably just one of those rich kid’s, living off daddy’s money.”

“Please let me by!” Adam said again, ignoring the comment and trying to pass by again.

“NO!” The man said, swinging, and connecting evenly with Adam’s jaw.

Adam felt his jaw pop, as the fist came once again, hitting him in the nose. Blood began pouring instantly, and Adam knew his nose was broken. He tried to get away before the next swing; it caught him squarely in the ribs. He fell forward this time, landing sharply on the man’s knee. He felt his ribs crack on impact as he was lifted back up and hit in the face once again. The man continued his abuse until another sailor pulled him off.

“That’ll teach ya, you snot nosed brat. Have your daddy fix that for ya!” The man said laughing as he walked away. Adam heard his voice fade away as darkness consumed him into unconsciousness.

“Gampaw, I hiding!”

“HMMMM, Where could he be?”

“No wookie in here!”

“GOTCHA!”

“Hey, I said no wookie!” Adam smiled as his grandfather lifted him into the air. “Me go up,up,up!”

“You go down, down, down!” Abel said placing his grandson on the floor.

“You go bye-bye wif us.”

“No, I stay here.”

“You go bye-bye wif us!”

“No, I stay here.”

“I make room for you, see. I sit on bag, you sit dere!”

“That is not near enough room, my boy. I told you, this is Grandfather’s home, I stay here.”

“Dis me home too.”

“No, your home is with your father.”

“Dis Papa home.”

“No, Papa’s home is out West. He needs your help to find it.”

“I find it! I good at finding.”

“Yes, you are good at finding. My turn to hide now isn’t it.”

“I gonna miss you, Gampaw.”

“I’ll miss you too, son.”

*****

Adam woke up to rain pouring over his face. He wasn’t sure where he was or how he had gotten here. He stood up, but was met with dizziness as he took a step forward. Steadying himself, he took a few more steps. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as he made his way home. He thought of the dream he’d just had — was it a dream, or a memory? He would have to ask his grandfather about it when he got home. He shivered as his clothes clung tightly to his skin, weighted down from the wetness of the rain. He didn’t remember coming this far, but he now stood on the other side of his grandfather’s door. He tried to enter but his hand would not grasp the door knob. He felt himself falling as the world took another spin; he landed at the foot of the door.

Abel heard someone at the door; he anticipated the knock, or the entrance of his grandson, but none seemed forthcoming. He stood and walked to the door, opening it he looked out. Seeing no one, he started to close the door. He heard a soft moan and looked down. He saw Adam sprawled face down on the floor of the entry way.

“Adam, are you alright?” he asked bending down, fearing he was drunk again. “Can you stand?”

“Pa?” Adam mumbled, reaching to push himself up and failing.

“No, son, your father’s not here. Let me help you,” Abel said, standing him up, seeing his face for the first time. “What happened to you, boy?”

Adam leaned the full weight of his body into his grandfather, causing him to stumble backwards a few steps. “Let’s get you inside. Steady now.” He got him comfortable in bed and surveyed the damage. “I’m going for the doctor; you stay here and rest up. Try not to move too much. I’ll be as quick as I can.”

Abel returned with the doctor as quickly as he could. Almost an hour had passed, and he feared in his confusion, Adam may have attempted to leave the house. He showed the doctor to his grandson’s room and emitted a sigh of relief as Adam was still there unmoved.

“Looks like he’s been through the ringer. What happened, may I ask?”

“He didn’t say, I just got him in here and went for you. Adam, can you hear me, son?”

“Pa?”

“What happened to you? When?”

“Are we going on our trip soon?”

“Adam, who did this to you?”

“Gotta get supplies ready; I can help load the wagon, Papa.”

“He’s disoriented; no need to ask question’s now. Looks like he’s got a broken nose — that’s causing the swelling in his eyes. May have a few cracked ribs. Looks like he took a massive blow to the left temple also. That may be what is causing his delusions.”

The doctor began tending Adam’s cuts as Abel set beside him offering encouragement. “It’s gonna be alright Sport, don’t you worry. The doctor will have you cleaned up in no time. You’ll be right as rain.”

“PA?” Adam yelled, trying to sit up.

“No, no, it’s time for rest now. Just lay back. Grandfather’s got you, I won’t let any harm come to you. Remember the storm, Adam? Remember what we talked about?”

“Big storm,” Adam said looking past his grandfather out the window of his room.

“PAPA! PAPA!” Adam screamed from his bedroom. Ben was away at a meeting and wouldn’t be back until late. Adam had an early bed time, and a storm had blown up before he had time to fall asleep.

“It’s okay, Sport, Grandfather’s here. What’s the matter?” Abel said rushing in to comfort his grandson.

“Scared. No more booms. No like!” Adam said, eyes wide as the thunder clapped loudly once again, then jumped as the lightening illuminated his bedroom.

“It’s just a storm, don’t worry. It’ll pass soon enough.”

“Papa, he scared?”

“Don’t worry about your father, son; he’s not afraid of a little thunder. We saw worse than this on the sea. Once there was a thunder clap so loud it blew out on of the portholes. Your father didn’t even jump — just prepared for the next one.”

“Papa brave! Why storm come?”

“Storm’s are just a part of life. Maybe they remind us there are things we have no control over. You can’t stop a storm from coming; you just have to ride it through.”

“Me ride too?”

“You’re riding right now, son. You and I together will conquer this storm. There is nothing to be afraid of. You just lie back with Grandfather, and we’ll listen to what this storm has to say.”

“I hear it, Gampaw. Know what it say?”

“What’s that, Sport?”

“It say, let’s ride!” Adam giggled as he snuggled close to his grandfather.

“That’s right my boy, let’s ride it together,” Abel said as he wrapped him tighter into a hug. They listened quietly to the storm, Adam falling asleep to the last of the thunder.

“You hang in there, Sport. We’ll ride this out together. Close your eyes and lean on your Grandfather. Everything we’ll be alright.” Abel said as he laid Adam against his chest protectively. He didn’t know who needed the comfort more, Adam or himself.

 

Dear Benjamin,

I am writing to inform you of a recent incident that has taken place. It seems Adam was attacked, by whom I don’t know. Adam doesn’t remember what happened, but he has sustained a few injuries. He has suffered a concussion, cracked ribs, and a broken nose. He is recovering from those injuries, but is now battling a slight fever. He is, however, grumbling about having to stay in bed. I have threatened to tie him to it if he tries to get up before the doctor’s okay. I showed him the knots I still know how to tie, and he seemed to believe I would follow through.

He should be okay in a few weeks, though he is experiencing some pain. Of course he won’t admit it, but he is neither eating nor sleeping well. I am taking good care of him, and he will write as soon as he can. Please try not to worry. I knew you would want to know about this as soon as possible.

Sincerely Yours,

Captain Stoddard

 

*****

“It’s a letter, Pa, from Grandfather Stoddard. Read it Pa, read it!” Little Joe bounced up and down. He had been anticipating a letter for over a month now, hoping for another gift.

“Let’s get it home first son; Hoss would like to be there when we read it,” Ben said putting the letter in his saddle bag. It was unusual that the letter was from Captain Stoddard, and not from Adam himself. He did not want to let on to his worry; he hoped that getting it home would give him time to read it himself first.

“Aw Pa!” Little Joe whined, but followed along behind his father.

“Joe, could you go check on Hoss, see if he needs a hand in the barn. The sooner he is done with his chores, the sooner we can read the letter,” Ben said hoping to gain some privacy.

“Sure, I’ll go now!”

Ben opened the letter as Joe went out the door. Unfolding it, he noticed the Captain’s scrawl, and began to read. He felt fear rise up inside him as he read. Who would do this to his son? He thought Boston was safe. He swallowed the lump in his throat as he realized he could not be there to help his son through this. It sounded like the Captain was doing a fine job with the boy, and even spoke of his stubbornness but this did not quell the feeling of helplessness he felt over his son’s state. He wanted to hold him, look at him, make sure he was alright. He wanted to find the person responsible for doing this to his son!

“Kay Pa, the chores are done. Can we read it now?”

Ben faced his other two sons and began explaining the news he had received about his oldest son.

***********

“Hello sir, my name is Elizabeth Mitchell. I heard what happened to Adam, and I just wanted to stop by. Do you think it would be possible for me to see him?”

Abel studied the girl closely. She was very pretty; she had long brown hair, dark eyes like Adam, and a nice smile.

“I don’t know if he is accepting visitor’s as of yet, maybe another time.”

“Oh Abel, let her in, allow the boy some company. He’s been stuck in that room with only you and I for over a week now. He has that look in his eyes; he won’t last much longer this way. Maybe she’ll be just what he needs.” Marilyn said as she held the door open for the girl.

“HHMMPPHH, you would think she owned the house and not me. Have it your way, Marilyn. Elizabeth, welcome; his room is the first door on the right. Make sure you knock; he has a thing about knocking. He’s liable to take your head off.”

“Yes sir. Thank you.” Elizabeth said as she walked towards the door.

“Come in!” Adam said gruffly; he hated being trapped in bed like this.

“Adam, it’s Elizabeth.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to snap. Please come in.”

“You don’t look too well; maybe I should come back another time.”

“No, please. I’ve been dying for some company. I look worse than I feel, honestly. Come, sit.”

“So, do you remember what happened?”

“No, not really. I remember it was raining.”

“Must have been something terrible. Can you see?”

“Sure, the swelling has gone way down. You look nice, by the way.”

“Thank you. Wish I could say the same.”

“Why, you wicked woman,” Adam said with a smile. He loved the way she made him feel so at ease. They had become close over the past year; she often joined Judy, Jimmy and him on their adventures. He still loved Judy, but Elizabeth and he were steadily becoming best friends.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” Elizabeth said laughing, then reaching out to carefully touch his face. “Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?” she asked trailing the line of his black eye.

“Not anymore,” he said looking back at her, his eyes flashing with a sudden desire.

She saw the look in his eyes, and felt her face begin to flush. She wanted so badly to kiss his pain away, but she knew that he and Judy had been seeing each other for quite some time. She continued to trail his cuts and bruises, bringing her fingers softly around his jaw line. He had recently shaved, and the skin was smooth as silk. She felt herself leaning towards him as his gaze had not left her. He leaned forward to meet her, and their lips met. Soon, they were driven into a more passionate kiss as his hands tangled in her hair.

“Adam, I brought you and your friend some…oh, excuse me,” Abel said backing out of the door.

Adam glared at his grandfather as he had once again caught him in a rather awkward position.

“I’ll just leave the cookies outside. Marilyn will be hurt if you don’t eat them.” He retreated back to the kitchen to inform Marilyn of what he had just walked in on.

“Sorry about that; he always just walks in. I’ve talked till I’m blue in the face, he just never…” He was interrupted as she kissed him again.

*****

“It was nice meeting you, Mr. Stoddard. Thank you for the cookies,” Elizabeth said as she emerged from the room after a rather long visit.

“Yes, you too. I hope we’ll see you again soon.”

“Thank you, I’m sure you will.”

“So, you have a nice visit.” Abel asked entering Adam’s room, this time knocking first.

“Yes, she’s a lovely girl.”

“Uh huh, so what about Judy?”

“Well, I don’t know. I love Judy, but now I have feelings for Elizabeth. Looks like I have a decision to make.”

“I hope you make it sooner than later.”

“Not much I can do from this bed, is there?”

“No reason to get snappy; you still have another week to spend in this bed at the least, even then, only on doctor’s orders. I still have that rope, young man!”

“Yes sir. So, you up for a game of chess?”

“Sure, Sport, set it up.”

“Grandfather, why do you call me Sport?”

“It’s a nickname. That’s what I’ve called you since you were knee-high.”

“Yeah, but why?”

“Well, because even as a child you were always up for anything; you were always a good sport…”

“Oh.”

“You don’t like it?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“So you do?”

“Game’s ready to go.”

“You’re not going to answer me?”

Adam smiled and made his first move.

“Scamp!” Abel laughed and studied the board.

 

Dearest Adam,

Your Grandfather wrote about your latest incident, I hope you are doing okay. I would give anything to be there beside you right now, but I know you’d hate the fuss. Just remember that I love you, and if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.

Your brothers and I recently bought a new wagon, the old one finally fell apart. It was beyond repair. Little Joe has been bugging me to let him drive for a while now. No way will I let a seven year old drive a wagon, though he argues that he is nearly eight. He has been wanting a new hat. I thought maybe you would like to send him one from Boston. That will serve as a daily reminder of his older brother.

I hope you are feeling better, and you are able to enjoy the rest of your summer. We love you and miss you. We are awaiting your response.

Love Always,

Pa

 

“So, you wrote my father about the incident.” Adam asked putting the letter in the drawer next to the bed.

“Yes, I knew he would want to know.”

“Thank you. I meant to ask you. I had a letter started on my drawing table; you wouldn’t happen to know what happened to it, do you?”

“A letter? No. You must have misplaced it.”

“Oh, just checking.”

“Ahem.” Abel cleared his throat. “Would you like some paper to write them back?”

“Please. I’ll make sure not to lose this one.” The sarcasm was thick in the air.

“Yes, I’m sure you’ll be more careful.”

*****

“Jimmy my boy, please come in!” Abel said as he answered the knock on the door.

“Hi Captain, how’s Adam?”

“Grumpy as ever. He’s been asking about you, I’m glad you made it out.”

“Well, I started that job, the one Adam was supposed to be involved in, designing the new fleet.”

“Job?”

“Oh, he didn’t tell you?”

“No.”

“Well, maybe he forgot; it was offered the day of the accident.”

“I see. Well, go on back, he’ll enjoy the company.”

“Hey buddy, how ya feeling?”

“’Bout time you showed up, my friend. Couldn’t find time to visit your sick friend?”

“Well, one of us has to work.”

“Work, oh hell. I forgot all about that. Was your father upset?”

“Of course not; he heard what happened. He’s hoping when you’re well, you will still take the job.”

“Good. Thank him for me, will ya.”

“No need, he knows. Anyway, when do you get to get out of this bed?”

“Doctor comes tomorrow. Hopefully he’ll give me a clean bill of health. I’m bored out of my mind. Wanna play some cards?”

“Sure, what’ll it be?”

“How about poker?”

“Poker it is, buddy.”

*****

The doctor granted Adam a clean bill of health, and though he took it easy for a few more days, by the weekend he was ready to get out. Jimmy had informed him that one of his friends had dared him to stay the night in a rundown hotel that had not been occupied for years. He had said that rumor has it the house is haunted by the ghost of two lovers whom were murdered in the night. Adam had agreed to go with him, and now was anxiously awaiting his friend’s arrival.

The buggy pulled up to the apartment just before sunset. Adam told his grandfather he would be back later and hurried out the door, avoiding explanation. Pulling his jacket tightly around him against the wind that had suddenly turned to gusts, he approached the buggy. He noticed both Judy and Elizabeth awaiting his arrival, and quickly he climbed up beside Jimmy.

“You ready for this?” Jimmy asked smiling as Adam turned to greet the girls.

“Are you kidding? I brought my tarot cards and magic ball for the trip,” Adam laughed as the buggy started out of town.

“Oh, going to tell us our futures, are you?” Elizabeth chided, giggling to Judy. She had decided to pretend the kiss had never happened, and that she and Adam were only friends. She feared the tension that would arise if anything had seemed different.

“C’mon guys, this is serious. My aunt said she had a cousin who’s best friend spent the night in the room, and the next day he came out with his hair completely turned white. He never spoke again and was locked in a ward for the mentally insane,” Judy whispered quietly.

“You believe that! What a load, c’mon. You think that’ll happen to us!”

Jimmy pushed the horses harder, speeding them further down the street.

Pulling their buggy to a halt down the street, they walked the rest of the way to the hotel. Adam and Elizabeth exchanged glances as Judy and Jimmy joked back and forth to one another about who would be scared first. Standing in front of the hotel, they stood side by side as they observed the building. Several windows were broken, and the hotel was in shambles. It looked as if it could cave in at any moment. They went around the back, watching out for the fallen debris around the building and were surprised to find the door standing half open.

“Looks like they’re inviting us in,” Jimmy joked as the door squeaked the rest of the way open, then slammed shut behind them, causing everyone to jump. Jimmy led the way to room 113, and tried the handle. Again they were surprised to find the door squeak open. Adam playfully shoved Jimmy through the door, then followed behind him, Judy and Elizabeth on his heals.

“It’s cold in here,” Judy said, sliding her left arm through Adam’s right.

“The window’s broken, looks like a storm’s blowing in. Good thing I packed a few extra blankets.” Adam said, showing everyone the bag he had packed.

“Good thinking. I didn’t pack any extra, just brought one. What else you got in there?” Jimmy asked taking the bag from him.

“On the trail, you always make sure you bring extra. I brought a few blankets, some snacks, matches, change of clothes, and a knife. Never know when you’re gonna need ‘em.”

“Wow Adam, I never knew a man to think ahead like that,” Judy laughed placing a soft kiss on his cheek.

Adam reddened, and slid a glance at Elizabeth. She held his gaze for a moment, then moved away. “What do you say we get settled in for the night,” she suggested as she stepped over to Jimmy.

“Good idea. Hey, how about we try to call on the ghosts. You know, isn’t there something called a séance that can bring back the dead?”

“Don’t you have to know certain verse or something though?”

“We can make ‘em up. You know a lot of Shakespearean plays, Adam. Isn’t there something we can use from those?”

“No.”

“Adam!”

“No. Why don’t you start the chant? This was your bet, after all.”

“Fine, form a circle and sit down. Wait, we have to draw a circle on the floor too. I remember somebody saying something about sitting around a circle. Adam, hand me that knife; I’ll carve it in to the floor.”

Jimmy carved a circle in the floor, then sat down. He waited for the others to join him, Judy sitting to his left, Elizabeth to the right, and Adam in between the girls. He directed them to hold hands, and close their eyes. He scowled at the tuffs of laughter that erupted a few times, then began his improvisational chant. “Oh spirits of beyond, rise into being so thine eyes can see.”

His phrase was illuminated by a bright flash of lightening, causing both girls to scream.

“We call upon you now, make your presence known.”

Thunder clapped, and Adam found himself with two girls in his lap. The wind blew through the broken window, a low moan erupted around them.

“What is that?” Judy cried digging her fingers into Adam’s arms.

“Ouch! It’s just the wind. Would you let go?!” Adam said prying her fingers off of him.

“I don’t want to stay here anymore. Forget the bet; let’s just go. Besides, it’s really cold now; we might catch a chill,” she whined, latching onto Jimmy instead.

“No way. We just got here! It’s only a storm; it’ll blow through in a minute,” Jimmy said, wincing as her nails indented his arms.

Adam took advantage of only having Elizabeth in his lap, and he rubbed a hand up and down her back. She leaned into him, hiding the view from Judy. The wind blew again causing one of the blankets to tumble towards Jimmy and Judy. She screamed again and headed for the door. Jimmy ran after her, fearing she would try to make the journey home alone.

“Elizabeth.” Adam whispered, finding themselves alone in the room.

“Yes?”

“Are you scared?”

“Not really, it’s just a storm. I have to admit, the lighting had an illuminating affect. I guess I was just startled.”

“Hmm, so are you still startled?”

“No, why do you ask?”

“Well, my legs are going to sleep.” Adam smiled his dimpled smile as he felt her move further back into him.

“That’s a shame,” she whispered as she tilted her mouth towards his and waited.

“A real shame,” Adam said, meeting her lips with his. He felt the warmth of her breath against his lips as they listened intently for the return of Jimmy and Judy. Elizabeth shifted on his lap; she sat between his legs now, facing him. Her long hair cascaded around them as she pushed him to the floor. Lying on his back she straddled him, and kissed him more deeply. His body reacted, and soon he was struggling with the pressure he felt below. Just when he felt he was going to lose control, Elizabeth sat up quickly and straightened her clothing. Adam did the same, and gathered the blankets as Judy and Jimmy made their return.

“She’s not staying; I promised to take her home,” Jimmy said, digging his toe into the floor.”

“I figured as much; when she sets her mind to something, there’s no changing it,” Adam said, using the blanket to conceal his predicament below. “I’ll pack up the gear. We gonna wait for the storm to pass?”

“Nope, we’ll head to my house. It’s the closest. I’ll hide you three in the guest quarters. You’ll have to leave early, before my father gets up.”

Everyone piled into the buggy, and started towards Jimmy’s home. They snuck in through the servants’ quarters, and headed up to the guest wing. Adam took the room at the end of the hall. The bed was rather large, made of solid oak, covered with a red bedspread. Pulling back the covers he melted into the bed, thinking only of he and Elizabeth’s encounter. Closing his eyes, he pictured her again; slowly he faded into sleep.

Elizabeth snuck quietly down the hall, edging her way towards Adam’s room. She turned the knob slowly, entered without a sound, then turned the lock. Her fear was that Judy may have the same idea, and then they would be caught. She moved silently to his bedside, the moonlight shining softly over his face and upper chest. She noticed him not wearing his night shirt, and longed to run her fingers through the hair on his chest. She whispered his name quietly as she sat next to him on the bed.

“Adam,” she whispered again when she received no response.

He opened one eye to look at her, a small smile playing on his lips. “What are you doing here? Am I dreaming?”

“We had some unfinished business. I do believe. I tried to sleep, but could only think of you. What exactly are we doing, Adam?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one in my room.”

“Oh shut up. You know what I mean.”

“Well, what do you think we’re doing?”

“I don’t know, but I know I can’t stop thinking about you.”

“Me too.”

“But what about Judy?”

“She’s my best friend, and I love her. Honestly, I have feeling for you too.”

“You can’t have us both, Adam.”

“Why not?” He smiled sarcastically.

“Be serious, Adam. I think it better if we get some distance between us. I can’t do this; it doesn’t feel right.”

“But…”

“No. Can you honestly tell me that you don’t love her?”

Adam sighed, and stared into her eyes. “I can’t. I do love her.”

“It’s settled then. I’ll take a step back. I feel guilty enough after tonight. I’ll see you at school, Adam.” Elizabeth said standing quickly and retreating out the door.

“Elizabeth, wait…” Adam whispered as he watched her disappear through the door.

*****

Adam started work the following Monday. Between school and work, he saw less and less of his friends. Elizabeth had avoided him at school, and Judy was busy with her job also. He fell into routine, and the rest of the year passed before he even knew it. Summer came again into view, and now that school had ended, Adam relished in his free time. Jimmy became involved with a local baseball team, and talked Adam into joining. Practices and games soon filled in his free time, and he found himself again rather busy. Arriving home late, Adam realized he had not written his family in over two months. He went to his room and started a letter home.

 

Dear Little Joe,

Sorry I haven’t written for a while, Little Buddy. I joined a baseball team here in the city, and it takes up most of my free time. You would really like the game, I think, and I will teach you how to play when I get home. Now that school is out for the summer, I feel a little restless. I bet Pa and Hoss are keeping you busy with chores. Don’t forget to talk them into fishing every once in a while. Do you remember when we used to hunt frogs, and you would put them in your pants to bring them home? I remember we had caught a particularly big one, and your mother and Pa told you to leave it there. When Marie put you to bed that night, the frog shot out of your pants and landed directly on her foot. I bet they heard her scream all the way in Virginia City. I’ll never forget that night; you always had a way of finding mischief, little brother.

 

This time, I sent you a book about Boston. That way, maybe you can read about where I am and feel a little less far away.

Love you Little Buddy,

Adam

 

 

Hoss,

Hey big little brother, how are things at the ranch? I bet you’re already prepping for winter. Don’t let Pa work you too hard. Make sure you get out to our spot near the lake. Maybe it’s time to show Joe; he’s old enough now I’m sure.

I’ve been rather busy here myself. Jimmy and I are still working on designing the fleet of ships for his father. So far, two of our ships have been constructed. We were at the ribbon cutting ceremony, and each received a plaque for our first creation. Jimmy’s father was very proud. I’ve never seen Jimmy so happy.

Judy told me to tell you hello. And by the way, we went to a haunted hotel and met a few spooks. I’ll tell you more about it when I get home. Those stories are always better told in person. Just remember to try not to go out alone after dark. You never know what’s lurking around the next corner.

All my love,

Adam

 

 

Adam laughed as he wrote the last sentence. Hoss was always easy to scare, and he smiled at the thought of Hoss worrying over a dark room. Even though he wasn’t at home, he still felt the need to pick on his brothers just a bit. Shaking out his writing hand, he addressed the next letter to his father.

 

Dear Pa,

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, it’s been pretty busy here. Jimmy and I have created two ships that now sail out of Boston Harbor. Grandfather came to the ceremony, and took me out to dinner that night to celebrate. He told everyone around us to keep on eye out for the Traveler. That’s what we named this fleet. I wish you could see it in person, Pa, but I have included a sketch of what they look like. I joined a baseball team for the summer, and I really enjoy it. I am the pitcher, and sometimes substitute as first basemen when my arm tires.

I hope all is well with you, and you’re not overwhelmed with the Ponderosa. I worry sometimes that leaving may not have been the best thing for the family, though I am truly enjoying this experience. Only two more years to go, Pa. Can you believe it? Well, I hear grandfather heading this way, so I’ll close. He wants me to go to another social this evening; I haven’t even dressed yet. Grandfather has a lecture memorized for this such occasion. I miss you all, and tell Hop Sing that he should be expecting a package soon.

Love you Pa,

Adam

 

Adam laid his letters on his desk, and began to ready for bed. He heard a small knock on the door and his grandfather entered.

“Home a little late tonight, aren’t we?” Abel asked as he stepped inside the door.

“Sorry, we had a late practice, then me and some of the guys went to the pub.”

“Oh I see. Well, I wanted to tell you that I will be going away for the weekend; I’m leaving early in the morning. There is a business associations meeting that I must attend. I won’t be back until late Sunday evening.”

“Okay.”

“You’ll be alright by yourself then?” Abel asked with a slight gleam in his eye.

“Grandfather!”

“Just checking my boy, just checking.” He laughed and closed the door, leaving Adam to finish undressing.

*****

“Is that a letter from Adam, Pa? I thought he plum forgot about us!” Hoss said, looking over his father’s shoulder at the stack of letters.

“It is. Better hurry up and get home so we can read them. Little Joe will be excited to hear from his older brother I’m sure.”

“We all are, Pa. Can’t I open mine now?”

“Hoss, we’ve been through this; we read our letters together. Now let’s head on out.”

“Yes Pa. Just miss him, that’s all. You know, Little Joe don’t hardly talk about him no more. You reckon he’s forgetting?”

“No, he wouldn’t forget. His brother has written many letters, just far between. I would imagine that would be enough to keep his memory up to date.”

“I guess you’re right. We haven’t forgotten Adam any, that’s for sure. You think he misses us like we miss him?”

“I like to think he keeps us in the back of his mind, but I do hope he doesn’t get too homesick.”

“Yeah, Giddy UP!” Hoss yelled sending the team into motion.

“Hey Joe, here’s a letter from Adam. Hurry up and get in here so’s Pa’ll let us read ‘em!” Hoss hollered from the house.

“I’m coming, I’m coming. Adam writes a letter, it’s like Christmas or something,” Joe mumbled, frustrated at having to leave his post. He was hunting Indians, and didn’t want to be disturbed.

“Don’t look to excited, little brother. Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing’s wrong.” Joe said giving his best fake smile. Truth was he didn’t remember much about his oldest brother anymore. They kept up correspondence, but Joe often felt he was more of a pen pal than part of the family.

*****

Sleeping in the next morning, Adam found himself feeling a little homesick. Waking up in the house alone at first had seemed just what he needed — a little time alone. Now he sat at the table drinking coffee, feeling lonely. Deciding it best to get out of the house, he went to dress.

Stepping outside, the air was warm. The smell of the sea wafted around him, and brought tears to his eyes. He’d give anything to smell those pines on the Ponderosa. He began walking east, not really watching where he was going, and, out of habit he guessed, ended up in Judy’s aunt’s shop. The bell rang as he entered bringing him back to reality. Judy was waiting on customers behind the counter. She was dressed in a light printed red summer dress, with matching a matching red bow holding up her hair. She saw him and smiled before turning back to her customers.

After filling the orders, Judy came around the corner, giving Adam a strong hug. He gladly returned it, and lingered with it a little longer than usual.

“What is it Adam?” she asked, noticing his body tremble slightly.

“Nothing,” he said, releasing his hold and keeping his voice low to hide the tremors. “Do you think your aunt would cover for you for a while?”

“I can ask. Is something wrong?”

His eyes suddenly teared and he turned away from her, clearing his throat.

“I’ll be right back,” she said as she hurried to the office in the back of the store.

Adam wiped at his eyes, frustration pouring from his features. This was not like him at all. A few more customers came in, and Adam made his escape out of the store. He went to the side of the building, out of sight of the main flow of people, and waited for Judy.

“Adam?”

“Over here,” he answered, collecting himself a little better.

“Where should we go?”

“How about the pier? Do you have time?”

“I told her I was taking the rest of the afternoon off.”

They walked silently, Judy stealing glances at Adam whenever she could. She hadn’t seen him this emotional since his father left for a trip to New Orleans when he was ten. He was obviously struggling with emotion as they walked along. She took his hand in hers and gave him a tight squeeze. Making it to the pier, they searched for a secluded place just off the coast.

Adam sat down on the beach and stared at the water before him. The sun reflected the water blue, and the boats caused small waves to ripple along the shore.

“What is it, Adam?” she whispered, scooting closer to him to lay her head on his shoulder.

“Do you ever miss home?” he asked picking up a few shells that were laying beside him. He turned them around and around in his fingers, trying to refocus his emotions.

“Of course I do. I miss my father, the tree’s, the sounds. Is that why you’re upset? You’re missing home?”

“I’ve missed home before, but not like this. I don’t know, I woke up this morning and I feel abandoned in a way. I know it’s too far for them to travel, but I want to share my world with them. I guess I just feel……..left out.”

“It’s okay to feel that way, Adam; it’s hard not seeing your family. I’ve wished father out here many times, and I too felt left behind. I realized the more I thought about it, I was actually feeling guilty. Guilty for leaving, especially the way I left, and guilty for having such a great time while I left everyone else behind.”

“Are you going back?”

“I don’t know yet. I was hoping to discuss that with you.”

“You graduated, Judy. You can’t just keep working for your aunt. I know it took you an extra year. Don’t you want to do something different with your life now?”

“I was offered a position in New York. It’s a small editorial company, and I would be the only female on staff. But it’s a great opportunity.”

Adam looked at her in surprise. He knew she wanted to work for a company, but to move to New York… First he lost his family, now he’s losing his best friend. Tears welled in his eyes again, only this time he held his gaze. “That would be a wonderful opportunity. When would you start?”

“I’d be leaving in three weeks. I’ve discussed it with my aunt, but was waiting to see you. I really want this job, Adam, but I don’t want to leave you behind.”

“I won’t ask you to stay, Judy. You have to make your mind up on your own.”

“I guess in a way I already have. I’m going to New York. What I wanted to hear is, after you graduate in two years, maybe you’d join me.”

Adam cleared his throat, once again regaining his composure; so far he’d been able to keep the tears from spilling down his cheeks. “Maybe.”

“Oh Adam, we came here to talk about you. Is there anything I can do to help? I can tell you’re still upset. I should have kept my big mouth shut. Now I’ve probably made things worse.”

“I’m fine now. I just needed to get out for a while. I really should be going; I have a lot to do today. I’ll see you around. If you need any help, with your trip, I mean, just let me know.” He stood and walked away, leaving her sitting in the sand. He heard her call after him, but only quickened his pace.

He walked steadily along, feeling worse now than he had before. They had been avoiding that conversation since Judy’s graduation a little over a month ago. Her father had come out for that, and since then, Adam’s longing for his own father had increased. He’d been able to fight off the feelings until now. He wiped his eyes again, trying to stop the wetness in his eyes from forming again.

“ADAM!”

He stopped and looked around. He heard someone calling him.

“Hey, Adam,” Jimmy said, again coming up behind his friend.

Adam stayed with his back to his best friend for a moment. He breathed deeply, trying to get himself once again under control.

“Where you headed?” Jimmy asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Just walking,” he answered, his voice shaking a bit.

Jimmy gave him a puzzled look, then wrapped an arm around his shoulders, leading him down the street. Arriving at his house, he led Adam into his room and closed the door.

“What’s this? Jimmy asked seeing his friend struggle to hold his composure. He was a little worried as he’d never seen his best friend in such a state.

“Jimmy…I…” Adam couldn’t finish as the first tear made its escape.

Jimmy sat next to him on the bed; their arms touching slightly, but he did not pull Adam to him. He knew Adam was not the touchy feely type, and he didn’t want to scare him off, though his eyes now welled up too, feeling helpless on what to do for his friend.

“Is someone hurt?” Jimmy whispered as he watched Adam’s shoulders shake as he hid his face in his hands. Receiving no reply, he waited longer before asking again.

“Jimmy, I was hoping you would accompany me to…” Mr. King stopped as he entered Jimmy’s room unannounced. “What’s wrong Adam?”

Adam didn’t answer, so Mr. King looked to Jimmy for explanation. Jimmy shrugged his shoulders in response.

“Jimmy, could you go downstairs and fetch some fresh water for your friend here?”

“Yes sir.”

Virgil watched his son make his way downstairs, and took his seat next to Adam. He wrapped his arms around the boy’s shoulders, and brought him to him. Adam stiffened at first, but then turned his head towards his shoulder. Virgil felt the wetness of tears on his shoulder as he rubbed the boy’s back, waiting for the opportunity to find out what this was all about. Jimmy arrived with the water, but Virgil waved him out of the room. Taking his cue, Jimmy went back downstairs to wait for his friend.

Feeling safe with his best friend’s father and his employer, Adam began to calm down. He felt Virgil rubbing his back in small circles, as his father used to do, helped ease the pain a bit. He got himself under control and sat up, wiping his eyes several times to dry his tears.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Virgil asked lightly as Adam sat up straighter.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“How about why you’re crying.”

“It’s just…just…I wanna go home, Mr. King. I miss my family and I want to go home.”

“It is hard being so far from the ones you love. But son, you know that’s not possible. Unless you’re meaning to drop out of school, and I won’t allow that.”

“I don’t want to drop out; I just want…I…”

“You just want your father. Is that it, son? You’re upset because you miss your father.”

Adam nodded. His face reddened as he felt embarrassed about wanting his father at his age, and losing control of his emotions.

“When I moved to Boston, my father stayed in Michigan. I thought for sure I would enjoy my independence, and would never look back. The first two weeks here were hell. I couldn’t think of anything but my father and home. I spent two weeks alone in my room, other than working, and each night I remember crying myself to sleep.”

“You, Mr. King?”

“Yes, me. After a while, I made friends, and life became easier. I settled into a routine. But every now and again, I would get bogged down, and consider going back to Michigan. I had some very good friends that I could turn to during those times, and even though I still missed my father, they kept me from doing something I would regret. Had I gone back to Michigan, I would have never met my wife. My children would not exist, and I would have become a different man. Every choice has a consequence, Adam. Make sure you consider the consequences before you make a decision. And next time, don’t wait so long to talk with someone about how you feel.”

“Thank you Mr. King. You’re right. Going home would not be the best decision; I have to finish what I started. I just wish they could visit. Now Judy’s leaving. I guess I just feel…”

“Judy’s leaving?”

“Yes sir. She was offered an editorial position in New York.”

“Well, that’s wonderful. That is an opportunity that not many women get.”

“I know, and I’m happy for her. But I think I’m in love with her.”

“You think, or you know?”

“Well, I used to know, but then Elizabeth……..well, she doesn’t really speak to me anymore. I don’t know.”

“You’ll know when true love finds you, you’ll know. Think about it, Adam. Would you really want to deny her of this opportunity?” Virgil gave Adam one last pat on the back before standing. He could tell Adam was pondering his question, so he started for the door. “Come on down when you’re ready, son. Jimmy’s got the water ready for you.”

“Thank you,” Adam whispered, as he was still deep in thought.

*****

“Well, this is it. The trains leaving,” Judy said as the man called ‘All Aboard’.

“Keep in touch. I want to know the second you arrive,” Adam said as he pulled her into a hug.

“Yeah, don’t forget us,” Jimmy said pulling her into a hug also, and lifting her in the air.

She laughed as he set her back down, and gave one last look at the train. “You two come visit as soon as you can,” she said, stepping towards the door. Adam helped her in, and she smiled down at him, tears showing plain in her eyes. He gave her a fleeting smile as the door pulled closed, and the whistle sounded. He felt Jimmy place a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to him.

Jimmy was crying now, the tears flowing down his cheek; he made no attempt to wipe them away.

“C’mon Jimmy, let’s go home,” Adam said wrapping an arm around his friends shoulder.

“Adam?” Jimmy said stopping.

“Yeah?”

“I loved her.”

“I know you did, buddy. I know you did,” Adam said as he once again helped push his friend forward. “And in another year, you’ll have an opportunity to join her in New York.”

Jimmy spun to face him. “You mean you’re not angry with me?”

“Why would I be angry with you?”

“I thought you two were together. I felt guilty for wanting her as my own, when you’re my best friend.”

“I thought I loved her too, until I had that talk with your father. Then I realized we had grown apart.”

“So you won’t kill me if I tell you that we kissed a few times?”

“I didn’t say that,” Adam said giving Jimmy his best menacing look. Jimmy took a step back, then noticed a smile forming around Adam’s eyes.

“You’re unbelievable. So, does someone else hold your interest then?”

“Hmmm, I don’t believe I want to think about that right now.”

“Oh.” Jimmy shrugged, disappointment shown strong on his face. “Well, now that I know you don’t have feelings for Judy, and you’re not going to kill me, do you mind if I pursue this relationship. Friends before females, I always say.”

“Jimmy my boy, you have a lot of growing up to do,” Adam said pushing his friend forward.

“Why do you say that? Huh? Adam, why do you say that?” Jimmy followed as Adam increased his stride, ignoring the question all together.

*****

Part Four – Graduation

 

“So, this is your last semester, son. How do you feel?” Abel asked his grandson who was getting ready for the first day of his last semester.

“I feel great. Only a few months to go; I can’t believe it.” Adam said gathering his books under his arm.

“Have you heard from Jimmy? Did he arrive safely to New York?”

“I haven’t heard, but I expect to any day now. You know Judy accepted his proposal.”

“No, that’s wonderful. And you’re sure you’re okay with that?”

“Of course. I gave them both my blessing. We’ve talked about this before, grandfather; we just grew apart.”

“It’s a shame; she was such a nice girl.”

“Yeah.” Adam walked past his grandfather towards the door. “I may be late tonight; I have to finish that job for Mr. King at the dock. Don’t wait up on me.”

Abel watched him leave; he felt a pull on his heart. Only a few more months and his grandson would be leaving. That is, unless he decided to stay out here and continue his work with Mr. King. It was a possibility. He would have to speak with Adam about it; maybe he could sway him into staying. He loved him with all of his heart, even though many times they argued, which Abel enjoyed immensely. Then he thought of Ben, and how much he must miss his son. He sat in his easy chair and lit a pipe, his mind floating back to when Ben and Elizabeth had first met.

*****

“Your brother will be home in less than six months. I want to be sure everything is ready for his arrival. What do you think we should get him as a graduation present?” Ben asked his sons as they sat down to dinner.

“How about some new books, Pa? You know how Adam loves to read,” Hoss said shoving his mouth full of food.

“Oh, I don’t know. I’d like to get him something that will make a big impact. What do you think, Joe?”

“I don’t know, Pa. I don’t know what Adam likes,” Joe answered honestly. He hardly remembered anything about his brother. He was only just six when he left. He had a few memories, but none really substantial.

“Sure you do. It hasn’t been that long since he left.”

Joe ran his hands through his hair. Four years was defiantly a long time. He was just a baby when his brother left home; now he was nearly grown, being ten. His brother Hoss was now sixteen, and this was his last year of school. Not a long time? Was his father crazy!

“How about a new horse, Pa?” Joe asked. He had his eye on Beauty, but knew that was his brother’s horse. If he got a new horse, maybe Beauty could then be his.

“A new horse? That’s a good idea. I’ll check into it.”

*****

“Adam, hello. How have you been?” Elizabeth asked as she bumped into Adam at the pier. She looked him over; he had defiantly filled out. His muscles were strong and developed, his chest well chiseled. He was no longer gangly but rather had the makings of a very fine man. Her heart clenched as she remembered their parting; she had always regretted letting him go. He had captured her heart their first day together, and she had been fighting a losing battle ever since.

“Elizabeth?”

“Yes. Have I changed that much?” She giggled as he looked her over.

“Um, well. I would say we both have changed a little. Since you graduated two years ago, where have you been?”

“I went to Australia for a while; I was studying the vegetation down there. It was a very interesting place.”

“Australia. I’ve wanted to go there since my grandfather sent me a book about it when I turned eleven.”

“You’ll have to go someday. So what are you doing now? You graduate in a few weeks don’t you?”

“Yes, this semester just seemed to roll by. I’ve already started shipping things home.”

“Oh, so you’re going back to the Ponderosa then.”

“Yes, I thought about staying on and working with Mr. King. But in the end, I thought returning home was the right thing to do.”

“Maybe I’ll come out for a visit sometime,” Elizabeth said, biting her lip to keep her tears in check.

“That would be wonderful. Anytime.”

“Well, it was nice seeing you again, Adam. Safe trip home.”

“Thank you. It was nice seeing you again too,” Adam said as she walked away. His heart beat strong in his chest and he had the urge to run after her. He had known he loved her since he met her at the social, but was too blinded by Judy to act fully on his feelings. He cleared his throat and closed his eyes for a moment, when he opened them she had disappeared from sight.

“Good bye, Elizabeth,” he whispered as he headed back towards his grandfather’s apartment.

*****

“All ready to go, Sport?” His grandfather asked as he put him on the train that would carry him to the steam boat.

“All set. You sure you don’t want to come for a visit?”

“No, I couldn’t do that. I’m too busy here.”

Adam looked down at the bag in his hand. He had just graduated, and now was heading home. He felt himself becoming choked up as he feared this was the last time he would see his grandfather. They had formed a strong bond, and through his stories, Adam had gotten to know his mother. A memory formed, like a fog in his brain. He remembered his grandfather waving to him as he left in the wagon with his father for their journey west.

“Adam, you need to board now.” His grandfather shook him back to reality, and pointed him towards the train.

Adam quickly turned back towards him and pulled him into a tight hug. “I’ll miss you, grandpa,” he said as a single tear trekked down his cheek. “Thank you for everything. Please come visit sometime.”

“I’ll miss you too, Sport. Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be just fine. Your family misses you; keep your thoughts with them.” He hugged Adam tighter, relishing in the fact that he had finally referred to him as Grandpa.

“Good bye,” Adam said as he stepped aboard the train.

His grandfather waved a final salute as his voice was too choked to allow him to speak. He memorized every feature of his grandson, down to his black boots, and in his mind’s eye, he saw the two-year-old waving from the wagon train. A tear trekked down his cheek to match the one that Adam wore, and they both wiped it at the same time.

The doors began to close and Adam stepped back giving the crowd one final look. His eyes caught that of a woman, long brown hair flowing, with dashing brown eyes. She ran furiously towards the train, calling out but could not be heard over the whistle.

“Elizabeth!” Adam called as the train left the station. He watched her as long as he could before she went out of sight. Sitting back he sighed, and reflected on his journey these four years. His thoughts lingering on one person. His true love: Elizabeth.

***The End***

 

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